Caterpillars turn themselves into butterflies by creating a cocoon to hold their bodies and then releasing enzymes to dissolve most of their body parts into a protein-rich mush. The only things not dissolved are collections of cells called imaginal discs, which then develop into the different body parts of an adult butterfly. The surrounding protein mush is used to help the cells in the imaginal discs reproduce quickly, growing in some cases by 1,000 times during the time the caterpillar is in a chrysalis (i.e., the life stage where a caterpillar turns into a butterfly).
More about caterpillars:
- The smallest types of caterpillars are about 0.04 in (1 mm) long.
- Lonomia achelous caterpillars are so toxic that touching several of them at once can cause massive, fatal hemorrhaging.
- Several types of caterpillars and moths are carnivores. Liphyra brassolis caterpillars eat ants, and several Hawaiian species trap snails in webs of silk fibers like spiders and eat them.