When caterpillars begin to change into butterflies, they usually aren’t much to look at. But some species create fancy chrome digs that look more like decoration than a transforming pupa.
These shiny, metallic-looking chrysalises are thought to help protect the growing butterfly by fooling potential predators. When light reflects off the chrome-like pupae, other insects might mistake them for drops of water or just beams of light.
The shimmery quality actually comes from a substance called chitin, which is what give some crustaceans, spiders, and insects their tough exteriors and makes beetles look shiny.
The orange-spotted tiger clearwing (Mechanitis polymnia) and common crow (Euploea core) are two types of butterflies that create these odd, but beautiful pupae. But while they’re fun to gawk at, the shine fades quickly.
“The butterflies are only in the pupal stage for around a week, depending on the species,” butterfly researcher Dr. Ryan Hill told Earth News Network. “Afterward, they lose the metallic colour.”
Butterflies undergo four different life stages, starting with an egg which hatches into a larva or tiny caterpillar. The caterpillar grows while eating and molting repeatedly. After two to four weeks, it transforms into a pupa or chrysalis, where it will undergo an odd transformation.
Basically, the caterpillar disintegrates into a gooey mass — although it retains some cells that will eventually form into adult body parts, like wings. Over time, it then reorganizes itself into a fully-grown butterfly!
Watch the transformation below: