Saturday, July 23, 2005

Watch Out, Squishy!

DAVID PERLMAN, SAN FRANCISCO CHRONICLE - Hawaiian snails, beware! A flesh-eating caterpillar is on the loose, and your shells betray you -- get off those leaves! Daniel Rubinoff, a former UC Berkeley biologist and now director of the University of Hawaii's Insect Museum, has discovered a unique new species of caterpillar that traps the mollusks with silken strands from its own body and devours its helpless prey alive. The caterpillars are the larvae of a widespread tribe of common Hawaiian moths and "represent a successful evolutionary experiment" that enables them to thrive very much as spiders do, Rubinoff says...

The snail is eaten alive bit by bit, and the meal makes a leisurely full one for the tiny insect. After dining on smaller snails, Rubinoff has observed, the insect will attach an empty shell to its casing. By decorating itself with several shells, the caterpillars have probably devised an effective camouflage against predatory beetles and ants that in turn would otherwise enjoy a caterpillar meal, he says...

"Almost all insects are predators," Rubinoff says, "but to find a caterpillar going after a snail is a real shock. It's like finding a wolf diving for clams."


At 4:02 PM, Anonymous Sam said...

Good thing Squishy is well protected!
You made me gasp when i read her name on your blog! yay!
Yuppers!! :)


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