MAR 23, 2016 11:57 AM PDT

A Caterpillar That Protects Itself With a Stack of Old Heads

Putting a twist on the old saying, ‘two heads are better than one,’ how about multiple heads? New heads, old heads, even heads that can be used to take a swing at your enemy. Or, at least that’s the idea behind a species of caterpillar known as Urba Lugens.
 
Better known as the gum-leaf skeletonizer or the Mad Hatterpillar, this caterpillar uses its unused old heads as an ever-growing appendage that can be used to fend off predators or enemies that try to attack it.
 

This caterpillar protects itself from predators with a stack of old head shells.


An extensive research project was conducted on the species by the University of Sydney’s Petah Low, whose research is documented in PeerJ.
 
Among the examples showing that the stack of heads is used for self-defense, was a recorded instance where the caterpillar used the stack to take a swat at a pentatomid bug and even to use it as a false foe distraction.
 
On the other hand, Low explains that the extra heads are effective against certain predators, but not all, “While providing some level of protection, head capsules may not be equally effective against all predators and are not sufficient to prevent predation by highly motivated predators.”
 
So where does this stack of heads actually come from? – The species will actually shed a layer every time it molts its shell, but as it does so, the part of the shell that would once encapsulate the head remains on the body, and continues to grow with each molt, as National Geographic explains.
 
The real head remains at the bottom of the stack of false heads, and predators often have a difficult time finding the real head as they’re trying to attack the caterpillar.
 
Even if parts of the shell break off during combat, if they’re able to get away, they’ll just continue to grow more to fend off future predators that try to cause harm.

It would seem that the old wive's tail that two heads are better than one, would be right!

Source: National Geographic

About the Author
  • Fascinated by scientific discoveries and media, Anthony found his way here at LabRoots, where he would be able to dabble in the two. Anthony is a technology junkie that has vast experience in computer systems and automobile mechanics, as opposite as those sound.
You May Also Like
SEP 11, 2018
Plants & Animals
SEP 11, 2018
21 'New to Science' Parasitoid Wasps Described in Study
Those who observe nature for a living are bound to happen upon captivating discoveries. For a team of North American researchers, that apparently meant ide...
SEP 24, 2018
Plants & Animals
SEP 24, 2018
Rare Two-Headed Snake Discovered in Virginia
There are two types of people in this world; those who love snakes and those who don’t. But regardless of which group you identify with, a recent dis...
OCT 01, 2018
Plants & Animals
OCT 01, 2018
Plants Thicken Their Leaves in Response to High CO2 Levels, and That's Bad
Earth’s plants and animals form a symbiotic relationship. As plants convert atmospheric carbon dioxide into oxygen, animal respiration then turns it...
OCT 22, 2018
Plants & Animals
OCT 22, 2018
Giant Pandas Discern Potential Mates From Their Calls, But Bamboo Forests Don't Help
Many of the world’s wild animals use mating calls to announce their readiness to mate and to find other specimens to hook up with, but curious resear...
NOV 08, 2018
Cell & Molecular Biology
NOV 08, 2018
Ancient Animal Provides a New Window Into Tissue Cohesion
Trichoplax adhaerens has no muscles, neurons, or defined shape but still makes coordinated movement....
NOV 12, 2018
Plants & Animals
NOV 12, 2018
Researchers Link Sunfish Brain Size to Specific Habitats
To most people, a specific fish species would be the same whether it was found at the shoreline or in the middle of the ocean. But according to research pu...
Loading Comments...