What Is That Thing?

October 17, 2009

Nature Notes by Bill Dunson

Mystery object

Mystery object


Here is a small (2 inch long) object that I originally found in our yard. Do you think it is animal, vegetable, or mineral ?!

Notice the segments on the left pointed end of the object, the broad somewhat wing-like covering on the right side, and the two “horns” at the right end. If you suspect that this is some sort of insect, you are right. If you poke it, it can wiggle a bit, but not move around. This type of object is normally a pupal case of an insect that undergoes a complete metamorphosis from a larval to an adult form. In this case I know for sure it is the pupa or chrysalis of a tiger swallowtail butterfly since I put a large green caterpillar in a box and it turned into this object. The butterfly will be spending the Winter in this form to survive the hostile weather and to undergo a complete anatomical transformation from a caterpillar to a butterfly. You can imagine that it is rare to find these pupal cases since they are so well hidden by their resemble to twigs and dead leaves.

So let’s re-double our efforts to observe all those complex and amazing facets of nature which are so well hidden from our prying eyes.

Bill Dunson, Englewood, FL & Galax, VA

Bill Dunson

About Bill Dunson

Bill Dunson, born in rural Georgia, skipped 12th grade and went directly to Yale. Bill subsequent-ly received a PhD in Zoology from the University of Michigan, studying softshell turtles. Bill is Professor Emeritus of Pennsylvania State University thanks to a career spent entirely at that institution, teaching and doing research on the physio-logical ecology and ecotoxiciology of reptiles, amphibians and fish. Always curious about nature, Bill has dedicated his life to learning and sharing his knowledge with others. He has served on many advisory boards here in Southwest Florida to preserve the water that gives life to our region.

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