We know what you’re thinking. This is clearly a venomous snake about to lunge at its unsuspecting prey, right? Nope. This gentle soul is actually a caterpillar performing one of the most impressive acts of mimicry on the planet.
Known by the scientific community as Hemeroplanes triptolemus, this creative creature is merely the larval (juvenile) stage of a moth native to Central and South America.
In its relaxed state, this creature looks like nothing more than your average caterpillar. When provoked, however, these harmless insects inflate part of their bodies to resemble that of a more intimidating reptile.
We’re dealing with identify theft here, but we’ve got to give them credit for their ingenuity. It’s all for their own protection. Animals sometimes pretend to be another species altogether if they wish to survive an encounter with a hungry predator.
How do these caterpillars do it? They’re able to retract their legs and “flare” parts of their body (think Arnold at a body-building competition) to make themselves larger. When inflated, the anterior end of their body forms a diamond-shaped false head and the patterns on their exposed underside resemble reptilian eyes, making their disguise all the more believable.
For maximum credibility, they’ll even mimic snake-like behavior by lunging or snapping at potential predators.
How’s that for evolution?
This caterpillar isn’t the only creature that mimics snakes as a defense strategy. Other moths and butterflies have also been known to adopt the appearance of snakes — and some snakes even make themselves look like their more venomous cousins.
Watch the caterpillar in action below: