Tuesday, June 01, 2010

Cryptic Caterpillar

Although today's subject is not as likely as last Friday's subject to raise one's blood pressure, today's subject is no less interesting!

As we were leaving the Audubon Center at Francis Beidler Forest on Friday, we spotted a caterpillar on the handrail.  The caterpillar was relatively flattened, which made it difficult to see.  The caterpillar's coloration is designed to blend into the bark of a tree and not the weathered handrail.  Though the caterpillar was off target, it still was not an obvious prey item as it rested in the open on the handrail.  That was a good plan as there are plenty of hungry reptiles and birds that have chicks to feed.

We check our printed and internet sources and could only narrow the caterpillar's identification down to either Tolype notialis or T. minta.  Both are present in South Carolina, but the Southern Tolype (T. minta) is associated with pond cypress, which some believe is the same species as our Bald Cypress (Taxodium distichum).  No matter which species is finally identified as the caterpillar in the images, it will be a new species for the Francis Beidler Forest insect list!  Let us know if you can make the species identification.

Images by Mark Musselman

1 comment:

Rick Cain said...

I would love to know if you ever identified this magnificent creature. I just found one on a serving cart at our lighthouse in St. Augustine, Florida. Thanks for the picture.