What REALLY Happens When a Caterpillar Turns Into a Butterfly…

Hey Thoughty2 here The humble caterpillar is one of the most mind-shatteringly incredulous creatures on planet Earth

There’s so much more to this chubby worm than meets the eye If there was a prize for the animal most likely to be a Pokemon, then this suave fella would take gold, because it evolves not once but twice First from a larva to a caterpillar then finally into a beautiful butterfly Actually, it’s so alike a Pokemon it already is one But how does a living, organic thing metamorphosise so consistently and so perfectly into a completely different creature, of an entirely different shape and size? You may be either grossed out when I tell you this, or totally amazed… but inside the chrysalis the caterpillar completely liquidises, turning into a mush of gooey proteins and fibres, as it slowly reforms into a butterfly over 10 days

We’ll talk about metamorphosis more later but first, let’s start from the beginning of this incredible insect’s life-cycle Because this amazing insect has so many secrets up its sleeve, or wings, that you’re not going to want to miss any of it A female butterfly will find a nice looking tree and lay its tiny eggs on the underside of the tree’s leaves, each egg contains a tiny, tiny caterpillar lava But the mother is extremely picky about which plant gets to play host to her eggs, each different species of butterfly uses a different species of plant and only that species of plant to lay its eggs upon This is all made a thousand times more complicated when you consider that there are over 20,000 species of butterfly in the world

The egg is the size of a pinhead and the mother will lay 500 eggs at a time It then takes just four days for the egg to hatch, by this point the lava is freaking starving so it eats its way out of its own egg then eats the rest of the eggshell, as well as the entire leaf its on and it will probably have a good go at the leaf next to it aswell This first meal is dangerous because the various sticky residues found inside some species of leaves can cause the caterpillar lava’s mouth to gum up Many caterpillars die from this If it survives the great feast, then all this sustenance gives the greedy little fella energy to grow into several times its size

It will then take a break to shed its first layer of skin The caterpillar will then spend the next week eating leaves and growing into a full-sized caterpillar Once fully-grown this ravenous tyrant can eat a full leaf in under an hour Once the caterpillar has gotten all nice and fat it prepares for the big change It finds a nice quiet spot underneath a branch and spins itself a silk button to attach itself to the underside of the branch

Other species get even fancier and spin a fine silk harness that they then sit inside Now begins the magic trick – it’s commonly thought that the caterpillar now makes its chrysalis, also known as a pupa, but not a cocoon, that’s something else But it in fact grows this hardened shell underneath its top layer of skin in the week leading up to its metamorphosis So when the time comes, all it has to do is shed its top layer of skin and its protective pupa is all ready, for the transformation to begin But the caterpillar has another magic trick up its sleeve

To disguise itself from predators, the pupa will change its colour to exactly match that of whatever is behind it And so the transformation begins, taking roughly two weeks to turn from a furry slug into a beautiful, winged insect But if you were able to see inside the pupa whilst this is taking place, you might be rather horrified The transformation begins with the caterpillar releasing digestive enzymes to eat itself alive; effectively turning itself into a soup Yuck

If you were to cut open a pupa at the right time during metamorphosis, a goo would ooze out But this magic goo contains everything needed to create a butterfly, and that is rather incredible But not every cell liquefies Certain groups of highly organized cells remain as solids within the soup Over the course of two weeks this caterpillar curry slowly turns into a butterfly broth and then into an actual butterfly, all from a gooey liquid

It’s such an incredible phenomenon that scientists still aren’t quite sure how this liquid organizes itself into a butterfly What’s so amazing about all of this is that everything about the creature changes during the transformation, its shape, its taste, how it eats, how it moves and how it senses – yet the butterfly is still able to remember its life as a caterpillar You would think that your brain being turned into a soup then reshaped into an entirely new brain would erase all of your memories But a recent study showed that butterflies were able to remember the solution to a puzzle that they were taught how to solve, when they were a caterpillar Meaning some of the synaptic connections in the caterpillar’s brain survive the soupification

Making the humble caterpillar one of the true wonders of the natural world Thanks for watching

About Thoughty2

Thoughty2 (Arran) is a British YouTuber and gatekeeper of useless facts. Thoughty2 creates mind-blowing factual videos, on the weirdest, wackiest and most interesting topics. Combining fascinating lists with answers to life's biggest questions.

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