Friday, July 22, 2005

Friday Carnivorous Catapiller Blogging

The above is a picture of a newly discovered species of Hawaian catapiller - known as Hyposmocoma molluscivora. Hyosmocoma has a unique food and a unique method of catching that food:

In rapt fascination, they watched a caterpillar, less than 1 centimetre long, creep up to an equally tiny snail resting on the surface of a leaf, before gently lashing it to the leaf with silk threads.

Once the snail is unable to escape - by dropping to the forest floor - the caterpillar forces its way into the mouth of its shell and devours it, head first...

Such oddities are probably a result of the islands' great isolation, which means many ecological niches normally exploited by other animals remain vacant, says Rosemary Gillespie, an evolutionary biologist at the University of California at Berkeley, US. Even by these standards, though, the snail-eating caterpillars are extreme, since they involve both a novel food choice and a method of prey capture previously unknown in caterpillars.

Added Later: I have just discovered that Milk River also has a post about this, check it out. (been trying to add this for a while but blogger seems to be acting up)

Added Even Later: PZ Myers also has a post on them. I am compelled to point PZ to the comments in this post.

Added Even Later than the previous note: Those of you looking for more pictures of the carnivorous catapiller can go here