Nudibranch of the Forest
December 11, 2012 12:53 PM   Subscribe

The Translucent Jewel Caterpillar, the Nudibranch of the Forest. Gorgeous caterpillar covered in break-off gumdrops that may help it escape predators. Turns into a bright orange furry moth.
posted by AceRock (17 comments total) 19 users marked this as a favorite
OK, that is incredibly beautiful and weird-looking. Very interesting that they are so colorful and bold (the article says that they walk on the tops of leaves, which most caterpillars do not as it exposes them to predators) despite apparently not being poisonous or venomous. I wonder what's up with that.

My ignorant money would be on them turning out to be actually poisonous after all, to be honest. Though I guess that these guys aren't exactly new to science, so I assume ecologists have looked into that because who wouldn't want to study such an awesome-looking species group.

The ant defense theory is interesting, though. Apparently the gel may function as a mechanical defense against ants, who find the goopiness annoying even if not actually poisonous, and who don't like sinking their mandibles into what is essentially a pile of gluey slime. The fact that the ants examined the caterpillars with their antennae (which are covered in chemoreceptors and are more like "smellers" than "feelers") also suggests that the jelly might contain something that the ants don't like, aside from just being kind of a gross mess to bite into.

Soooooooo pretty!
posted by Scientist at 1:02 PM on December 11, 2012 [1 favorite]

Also, the goopy nature of these things combined with the fact that caterpillars are basically just mobile eating machines that consume everything in their path makes me want to think of these as basically the Gelatinous Cubes of mangroves.
posted by Scientist at 1:04 PM on December 11, 2012 [8 favorites]

posted by MartinWisse at 1:04 PM on December 11, 2012

AKA Chihulypillar
posted by davebush at 1:12 PM on December 11, 2012 [9 favorites]

Gummy caterpillar - Acraga Coa Hariboensis.
posted by Kronos_to_Earth at 1:20 PM on December 11, 2012 [3 favorites]

So cool, thanks for sharing.
posted by thylacinthine at 1:48 PM on December 11, 2012

Nope. Still gross.
posted by ryanrs at 2:18 PM on December 11, 2012 [1 favorite]

They look like pokemon! And then, they evolve into even cuter pokemoths.
posted by clearlydemon at 2:57 PM on December 11, 2012 [1 favorite]

If I could get and train a pair of those moths, I could realize my life long dream to have eyebrows.

Flying eyebrows.
posted by Joey Michaels at 3:02 PM on December 11, 2012 [1 favorite]

It looks delicious.
posted by polymodus at 3:04 PM on December 11, 2012 [1 favorite]

Cooooool. I'd love to see pictures of all the known variants together, in a big poster or something.
posted by limeonaire at 3:48 PM on December 11, 2012

These are all so beautiful! One of them looks like it's got salmon roe, or maybe pomegranate seeds, on it. Good thing for the moths that I'm not a bird, because they look quite tasty to me.
posted by hurdy gurdy girl at 4:00 PM on December 11, 2012

My ignorant money would be on them turning out to be actually poisonous after all, to be honest.

Is what they eat poison?

(how many insects are poisonous not due to what they eat?)
posted by rough ashlar at 5:26 PM on December 11, 2012

Lots! Collecting secondary compounds from your food is a popular way to get poisonous if you're a bug, but there are lots of others that make nasty horrible chemicals all on their own. Saturniids, for example (io moths, buck moths) often have caterpillars which bear spines that secrete some really nasty stinging compounds if you touch them. They don't need to get that from their food, it's just what they do.

Yeah technically they're venomous rather than poisonous, but I'm lazy and can't think of anything straight-up poisonous other than like monarch butterfly caterpillars right now. Rest assured they're out there though, insects are insanely diverse and there's just so much variety that you can pretty much find an insect that does almost anything you can imagine.
posted by Scientist at 6:53 PM on December 11, 2012 [1 favorite]

Could be they're just pea-cocking! A bug that looks poisonous does pretty well in a primed ecosystem, at least for long enough for something as transient as a human to develope cameras and document it.
posted by es_de_bah at 7:39 PM on December 11, 2012

According to the article, it looked like the biggest defense they have is that the gel bloops fall off really easily, and feel nasty. They watched an ant try to grab one of the caterpillars, and one of the bloops broke right off as soon as the ant touched it and the ant then spent a couple minutes cleaning itself off while the caterpillar crawled off.

So these things may not necessarily be poisonous, but they get a bad rap in the insect world because they're slimy. Like okra.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 7:07 AM on December 12, 2012

Could be they're just pea-cocking!
PUA caterpillars with little fedoras
posted by MangyCarface at 7:53 AM on December 12, 2012

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