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Posted by on Jul 13, 2015 in Tell Me Why |

How Does a Caterpillar Become a Butterfly?

How Does a Caterpillar Become a Butterfly?

A butterfly begins life as an egg. The female lays the egg on a plant that will serve as food for the caterpillar. When the caterpillar hatches, it eats the leaves of the plant and grows big. At this point, the insect is ready to become a pupa, which is its next stage of life. The pupa attaches itself to a twig and a hard shell forms over its body.

The pupa cannot move and does not eat. But inside the shell, many changes are slowly taking place. Four wings, six legs, feelers, and new eyes are forming. Finally, the shell splits open and a graceful butterfly emerges.

In short, for a caterpillar to turn into a butterfly it digests itself using enzymes triggered by hormones, before sleeping cells similar to stem cells grow into the body parts of the future butterfly. Metamorphosis isn’t just some beautiful physical transformation, though. It’s a stunning display of evolutionary mechanism at work.

Butterflies and caterpillars don’t just look different, they behave differently too. One lives in trees, the other flies. Most importantly, one eats leaves, and the other solely feeds on nectar. There’s plenty of room for both kinds throughout the ecosystem since they don’t interfere with each others food stocks.

Content for this question contributed by Nancy Smith, resident of Tampa, Hillsborough County, Florida, USA