Anybody that has watched a nature documentary will be aware that many animals use a decorative ‘fake eye’ as protection from predators. But it seems some caterpillars have taken this a step further, with researchers documenting two rare species in Costa Rica (Eumorpha phorbas and E. labruscae) which have eyespots that can ‘blink’.
Thomas J. Hossie an his co-researchers at Carleton University in Ottawa studied this ‘blink’ by simulating a threat via a prod in the caterpillar’s rear, which resulted in a ‘blink’ from the crafty grub (see video above):
…“Both caterpillars can ‘blink’ their posterior eyespot upon perceiving a threat,” Hossie writes on his blog Caterpillar Eyespots. “That is, they can move the skin around the eyespot such it either conceals/reveals the eyespot or flashes (i.e. reflects light) conspicuously towards an onlooker.”
That doesn’t seem to be the only trick up their sleeve though: Hossie notes that they can apparently also mimic a snake: “Interestingly, both Eumorpha caterpillars also inflate their thoracic body segments, while pulling their head into their body, to form a diamond shape which appears similar to the head shape of dangerous co-occurring snakes (at least to human observers).”
Some people say evolution is blind, but when I see examples like this I think more in terms of an evil genius, sitting in a comfy chair and stroking a cat…