Swallowtail caterpillars are masters of mimicry and masquerade. While most swallowtails look convincingly like bird droppings at earlier instars (developmental stages), older caterpillars often develop a snakelike appearance to scare away predators. Their intimidating eyespots work in tandem with defensive behaviors (thorax inflation, rearing up, scent gland eversion) to create a compelling mimicry! Who knew that caterpillars could be such good actors?
Sketch and fact contributed by Elizabeth Postema
Source: Hossie, T. J., & Sherratt, T. N. (2013). Defensive posture and eyespots deter avian predators from attacking caterpillar models. Animal Behaviour, 86(2), 383-389.