by Nicholas Wade
New York Times, May 29, 2007
Butterflies and moths have evolved a wide variety of colors and camouflage patterns. Throughout these insects' lifetimes, they have evolved special traits to escape from predators. In "100 Caterpillars" and "100 Butterflies and Moths," Daniel Janzen and Winifred Hallwachs (with photos by Jeffrey Miller) examine these insects and their colorful appearances.
A few examples of these strategies that are mentioned in the article:
- Calledema plusia, a type of moth, has a "silvery gash on both sides of its brown wings," which "mimics a shaft of light streaming through a dead leaf."
- Pieria helvetia has a "disappearing act." When a predator is near, it will fly very rapidly, flasthing the red spots on its hindwings. Then it will quickly close its wings and is then invisible.
- The most interesting adaptations are in the moth, Oxytenis modestia. As a caterpillar, this moth imitates bird droppings. At the end of the caterpillar stage, the moth mimics a green snake. As an adult, the moth imitates a leaf, but the shape and form of the leaf depends on the time of the year it is born. Moths born in the dry season mimic dry leaves by being light beige colored. Moths born in the rainy season look dark and moldy.
"DISGUISES The mechanisms for warding off predators include dark coloring that allows the H. amphinome to blend in to tree bark."
"Silver stripes on the C. plusia look like sunlight streaming through a dead leaf."
"During caterpillar stages, O. modestia bears a resemblance to a bird dropping."
"A pattern on Z. ellops mimicks a dead leaf."
"H. icasia releases a bitter yellow fluid if bothered."