Camouflaged Caterpillar Resembles a Deadly Viper - Nerdist
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Camouflaged Caterpillar Resembles a Deadly Viper

A video of a hawk moth caterpillar was recently uploaded to YouTube by wildlife photographer, David Weiller, and the soft little creature apparently has some of the best natural camouflage of all time. That’s because the caterpillar, which will eventually grow into a shockingly agile hawk moth, looks like a deadly viper. Despite the fact that it is, in reality, completely harmless.

Laughing Squid picked up Weiller’s video (above), which was captured in a Malaysian rainforest. Weiller, who describes himself only using the phrase “Love the Rainforest” on Twitter and Instagram, seems to be in Borneo right now, although that’s unclear. (He seems to do a lot of traveling and was recently in Costa Rica.)

Even amongst all of the other wild creatures Weiller has captured on his travels, such as the Giant Red Fire Millipede and the Spined Assassin Bug, the hawk moth caterpillar stands out as unique. And all thanks to natural selection pressures that sometimes result in an animal simply looking like a predator rather than becoming one. Or looking like prey, but actually being a predator.

Inflating, Camouflaged Caterpillar Resembles a Deadly Viper_1

A head-on look at the hawk moth caterpillar’s snake-face. David Weiller 

According to a California Academy of Sciences site, bioGraphic, the this particular hawk moth caterpillar belongs to the species, Hemeroplanes triptolemus, and flexes its viper-like appearance immediately upon being threatened by a predator. The camouflage is on the caterpillar’s underside, and it reveals the viper-like pattern by dangling from its perch. Then, by sucking in air through holes in its body’s surface, it inflates its head to look like a viper’s—venom glands and all.

Although the Solid Snake camo the hawk moth caterpillar sports is impressive—we dearly hope you enjoy that Metal Gear Solid pun—the hawk moth it eventually metamorphoses into is fascinating in its own right. For example, members of the supremely agile hawk moth family, Sphingidae, can reach bodily temperatures of up to 104 degrees Fahrenheit while flying. Hawk moths are also capable of hovering in midair in such a way that makes them look like hummingbirds. Although that facade is more delightful than frightening.

What do you think about these hawk moth caterpillars? Is this the best case of natural camouflage you’ve ever seen, or have you (not?) seen better? Reveal your thoughts in the comments!

Feature image: David Weiller 

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