Friday Cat-erpillar Blogging: Hanging On

Caterpillar uses prolegs, extensions of its abdomen, to grip its a stem.

Caterpillars have an abdomen that is much longer than the thorax which contains the 3 pairs of true legs. The stubby legs of the thorax only provide grip at the head end of the caterpillar. However, gripping stems and branches is useful for caterpillars trying to hang onto leaves. Caterpillars have evolved prolegs, extensions of the abdomen that are used to grip the plant. In the picture below, the caterpillar can grasp the entire stem with a pair of prolegs. The prolegs are fleshy and can be positioned by muscles in the abdomen and hydraulic pressure. The ends of the prolegs contain rows of tiny hooks (crochets) that dig into the plant the way a soccer player’s cleats dig into the turf. The prolegs keep the caterpillar securely anchored to the plant and prevent the caterpillar from being dislodge by high winds or inclement weather.

About jjneal

Jonathan Neal is an Associate Professor of Entomology at Purdue University and author of the textbook, Living With Insects (2010). This blog is a forum to communicate about the intersection of insects with people and policy. This is a personal blog. The opinions and materials posted here are those of the author and are in no way connected with those of my employer.
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