The Caterpillar Master of Disguise: The Baron’s Story

The baron, or Euthalia aconthea, is a nymphalid that inhabits Southeast Asia. But the real master of disguise is not the butterfly itself, but its caterpillar. At first glance, it seems indistinguishable from the leaf on which it sits.

The perfect art of camouflage

Caterpillars are butterfly larvae that come in a variety of forms. Sometimes they don’t look at all like the butterflies they are supposed to turn into. And sometimes they are so beautiful that they will overwhelm their next stage with their fantastic coloring. Baron is just such a case.

The nymphalid leaves its egg on mango leaves, which are a favorite treat of the caterpillar. The egg is tiny and hard to spot. Its green color, just like the mango leaf, also makes it hard to find.

The master camouflage changes as it grows: a yellow line appears on the larva’s body, which mimics the veins of the leaf. In addition, there are needle-like outgrowths around its body: when viewed on any other surface, they look quite strange and maybe not particularly impressive. But if you move the caterpillar to a leaf, the real magic happens, because it manages to almost completely blend into the background, especially if it extends exactly along the stem of the leaf.

A true master of disguise

Even if you know the caterpillar is sitting on a mango leaf, you have to strain your eyes to see it: its natural camouflage is so effective. So the common baron turned into a real master of disguise to hide from his enemies and successfully reach the butterfly stage.

Many animals have naturally learned to camouflage themselves in order to somehow keep themselves safe from predators. However, some species have been more successful at it than others, and if there were any competition in the animal world, the common baron larvae would have a chance to take the gold.

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