Disguising oneself as a bird poo

Have a look at this picture, a big green caterpillar on the right and a bird poo on the left.

bird-poo-caterpillar.jpg

Look a little closer. That bird poo is another caterpillar!

Black-and-yellow Asian swallowtail butterflies (Papilio xuthus) are found from China to Hawaii. In their early stages, their caterpillars are black and white with spines and look similar to bird droppings. As they mature and grow in size, the caterpillars become too big to pass themselves off as bird droppings and instead become plump and bright green, allowing them tocamouflage themselves among leaves. After metamorphosis the caterpillar becomes a beautiful butterfly.

The adaptations of some organisms are truly amazing and this change in camouflage has been discovered to depend on the expression of three genes: one controlling the green colour, another controlling the black pigment and a third producing the spiky structures on the young animals.

 

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