Wednesday, September 11, 2013

oh pooh!

Bird droppings! Oh pooh, poo. It makes a very unappealing topic for a post. 

But, what if it weren't fecal material, but rather a caterpillar of a pretty spectacular butterfly. A true UGLY duckling that turns into a swan. More interesting? Right?

Somewhere down through the millennia, the larval stage of the giant swallowtail (Papilio cresphontes) has evolved to look like bird droppings on a shingle. Yes, poo. It probably took a few thousand years to perfect that certain je ne sais quoi of avian excrement, the caterpillars that looked most like it survived in greater and greater numbers, etc. etc. But once it perfected "the look," no predator would fool with it. Peugh. Blue jays look the other way. The cuckoos say, "No way." That is unless the bird happens to see the poo crawl away. As a general rule, poo doesn't crawl.

A perfect disguise. This caterpillar can hide in plain sight and eat and grow and eat and grow. After a few days, and a few molts, it only looks like an even bigger pile of bird droppings.  

Call it guano-camo.

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