Would You Believe Me If I Told You This Wasn’t a Snake?

posted: 05/21/15
by: Danny Clemens

Imagine that you're a hungry predator foraging through the forest, hot on the trail of a juicy insect for your next meal. Deep in the forest, you pull back a leaf, and this creature starts wagging violently at you, sending you running for the hills:

Dynastor darius
Andreas Kay via Flickr (Creative Commons)

The joke's on you, because this frightening creature is most definitely NOT a snake. It's actually a pupa (not a caterpillar, not yet a butterfly), ensconced in its chrysalis as it undergoes its remarkable transformation.

Dynastor darius is obviously a master of disguise, but it has more tricks up its sleeve besides its harrowing exterior: the pupa is still aware of the world outside of its chrysalis, and can shake from side to side (like a moving snake) to fend off the ballsy predator that wasn't sufficiently spooked by its exterior.

The creature was the subject of a 1991 study in the journal Tropical Lepidoptera. Unfortunately, the rest of its life outside of the chrysalis is noticeably less exciting: researchers never observed the butterfly feeding, and suspect that it dies once it depletes its supply of body fat.

Nature photographer Andreas Kay spotted this specimen in Ecuador's Reserva Mangaloma; click here to see more photos.

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Learn more about butterflies:

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Butterfly Rainforest

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