There is a lot of beauty in the development of this lepidotpteran larva in its niche in the ecosystem. Many intricately designed stages precede the magnificent creature as it is seen here.
The transformation from caterpillar into a pupa is brought about in less than twenty hours. The familiar striped caterpillar has just ended its frantic eating spree, and determinedly leaves the leaves of the milkweed that have sustained it so far. This journey away may lead it to another milkweed, but usually to something totally different that will offer shelter from the scorching sun and the rain. When the caterpillar makes this junket, it is dogged in its search: changes are already occurring anatomically that will continue to completion inexorably. If the caterpillar is not successful soon enough, the changes will immobilize it in vulnerable circumstances. The caterpillar must find a suitable site, and attach itself, in a timely manner.
Once the caterpillar has located a spot, it lays up a web mat of a size large enough to secure itself when suspended upside down. In the approximate center of this mat is placed a loose weave 'button' raised from the mat surface.
In a mind boggling maneuver, the caterpillar attaches itself to a support of some kind by its hind foot hooks, suspending head downward. The caterpillar latches hooking claws onto this 'button' it has made, and lowers its body to hang in a "J" shape, head downward. The metamorphosis occurring within catches up with the creature while suspended in this position. In a short while, it gets the message "It's time to change your clothes." With these changes complete, peristaltic waves pass from the head toward the attached end . The skin parts at a designed suture line and peels upward. The little creature unzips its caterpillar skin, splitting the striped outfit, and undresses itself! There, underneath it all, is a pale green pupa. The new pupa is exposed to the air and its new jade green skin can dry and harden.
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