When is a snake not a snake? When it’s a caterpillar! This extraordinary disguise is self-defence. The snake mimic hawkmoth caterpillar does an uncanny impression of a scary snake to avoid its forest predators.
If this hawkmoth caterpillar feels threatened, it immediately takes on snake-like characteristics and behaviour. Pulling in its legs and head, the caterpillar adopts a slithering motion. Its underside grows larger, giving the semblance of a snake’s head. The body is large by caterpillar standards and covered in scales, ensuring this species is one convincing masquerader.
Caterpillars use every trick in the book to deter an attack. Some resemble unappealing bird droppings (above), while others have false “eyespots” to make themselves appear more threatening. Other species develop prickly spines and hairy clumps to look less appetizing to predators.