The Caterpillar of the Tailed Jay, 161113, Puttenahalli Lake

No one would believe that watching a worm would be a learning experience, but so it was, at Puttenahalli Lake, where I went with Chandu and Kamal.

Chandu spotted (how, I do not know!) this extraordinarily tiny creature:

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and then we saw many of these caterpillars:

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That was when I learnt that not only does a moth or butterfly go through the egg, larval and pupal stages, but that the caterpillar itself has 5 stages of growth. I googled up

this link

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and learnt about

instars

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What we were looking at were two of the five instars for the

TAILED JAY

I found this text on the web:

Caterpillars go through 5 stages of growth. Each stage is called an “instar.”

As a caterpillar grows, it “molts” 5 times before it becomes a chrysalis. Each time it molts the caterpillar progresses to the next instar (1st instar, 2nd instar, 3rd instar, 4th instar and 5th instar).

Its skeleton is on the outside of its body, like clothes. So, as it grows, it can no longer fits in its skin.

But the analogy of growing out of clothes doesn’t fit exactly, as Dr Lincoln Bower explains.

“The caterpillar doesn’t just shed that skin, it digests and reabsorbs most of it. Before the skin starts shedding it does get tight. But it doesn’t just slip off. What happens is that the cells beneath the skin start releasing enormous amounts of enzymes and actually absorb most of the skin. Before it’s shed it becomes a thin sheen over the body. So what is shed is just a thin outer part of the cuticle. Sort of like a snake’s skin. So a snake skin analogy is really much better.”

Thank you for the riveting lesson, Chandu Bandi! I am even more amazed at how a creature can go through so many different forms…it’s a deep philosophical question, and an eternal mystery, to ponder.

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One Response to “The Caterpillar of the Tailed Jay, 161113, Puttenahalli Lake”

  1. Badri Says:

    Very illuminating little piece, Deepa. We learn something everyday. Today’s little lesson is about instars. Thank you.

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