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  • Kirk Mason

The Enemy of my Enemy is my… Defence?

As Summer closes, large Elephant Hawk-moth (Deilephila elpenor) caterpillars can be seen roaming the ground, searching for a safe place to pupate through cooler seasons. At first glance you may be startled by their large size and swollen segments possessing a pair of large eyespots – resembling that of a snake! This is no mere coincidence; these caterpillars are often predated on by insect eating birds, which are fearful of their natural enemies – snakes!




These caterpillars act the part too! When threatened, they rear up their eyespots and create a hissing sound, further imitating a snake. Though this predator avoidance strategy is incredible, it is not fool proof! Studies investigating eyespots have found that some birds will simply attack the eyespots or will attack the caterpillar at the opposing end of the eyespots!

Isn't evolution incredible? Can you think of other examples of this kind of defence?





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