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Caterpillars' Escape Strategy

Most caterpillars move slowly. If they have to run away from their predators, the most effective way is to drop onto the ground. However, most caterpillars, beside just dropping, they evolved different ways to enhance their way of escape.

Looper Caterpillar that Bungee-Jumps
We find that for the Looper caterpillars that live on trees, they use a very smart way to escape from predators. Like the Looper in above photos, when disturbed, it drop to the ground and disappear form predator's eye-sight. When we check carefully, instead of just doing a simple jump, the Looper made a Bungee Jump. It jumped with a safety line, the silk, attached to its body. After jumping, it was hanging in the mid-air. After a minute or so, it climbed via the silk back to the same place easily. 
There is a lot of advantages on this Bungee-Jump. If the caterpillar just drop to the ground, the ground is sure not a safe place for the caterpillar. Also it is very hard for the caterpillar to climb back up to the tree. The worst is, if it drop to the ground, the predator may follow and find it. 
Next time when you see a Looper, try to induce a Bungee Jump. This is fun to watch.
Caterpillar that drops and curves
For some other caterpillars, such as the one in the above pictures, they are not living on a tree. They live on grass. The Bungee Jump escape methods may not be practical. Instead, this caterpillar drop to the ground and curve its body into a round shape. 
The curved caterpillar looked completely different so the predator may not recognize it on the ground. Later when the danger has gone, it is not too difficult for the caterpillar to climb back onto the grass.
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Last updated: November 06, 2006.