Wild Fact #377 – Daring To Be Different – Predatory Hawaiian Caterpillar

Wild Fact #377 – Daring To Be Different – Predatory Hawaiian Caterpillar

Predatory Hawaiian Caterpillar

Photo by Darlyne A. Murawski

After spending some time in the ocean, I thought we could shift gears today and head inland to this little island called Hawaii. Have you heard of it? Besides enjoying a nice relaxing day on the beach, we are going to head the forest to discover one of the most amazing caterpillars you will ever find. Of course I am talking about the unique Predatory Hawaiian Caterpillar. What makes this animal so unique? Well, they are one of the few caterpillars that are carnivores feeding on insects and snails. I guess they just couldn’t handle being a vegetarian any longer and had to switch.

Filling a Void

Actually, the Predatory Hawaiian Caterpillar evolved into a killing machine since that niche existed on the isolated islands of Hawaii. Normally, this particular niche would have been filled by a Praying Mantis or something similar. Since they don’t exist on the island, it provided the opportunity for this little caterpillar to adapt and take over their spot on the food chain. The question I have is, how in the world does a friendly, little caterpillar kill and eat other animals? Actually, their technique is pretty impressive.

Predatory Hawaiian Caterpillar

Photo by Jane Memmott

A Deadly Attack

These Predatory Caterpillar’s have long, thin appendages on their abdomen which act as sensory organs. When an unsuspecting insect (and they would be unsuspecting because caterpillar’s eat plants, right?) touches these sensory appendages, our deadly caterpillar will bend back and quickly strike the confused insect. To make the Predatory Hawaiian Caterpillar even deadlier are their raptorial claws which they use to hold down any struggling prey items. They sound cruel, don’t they?

The Disappearing Caterpillar

If these caterpillars are so deadly, why do insects keep brushing up against them? Not only is the Predatory Hawaiian Caterpillar dangerous, they are also excellent at concealing themselves. They blend in perfectly with their vegetated forest so all they need to do is sit and wait until a clumsy snail knocks into the hungry caterpillar. In some cases, the Predatory Hawaiian Caterpillar has adapted their appearance to blend in with specific tree species, making them practically invisible. I guess if you are a small insect or a snail, life in Hawaii can be pretty tough – a lot tougher than just lazing around on the beach all day, that’s for sure.

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