How can blind caterpillars distinguish colors?

Color mimicry is one of the most importantmechanisms that allow some species of animals and insects to survive. Scientists still do not fully know how this mechanism works, and continue to conduct research in this direction. As part of one of them, they tried to find out how the caterpillars determine the color under which they need to mimic. As a result of the study, they came to a very unexpected conclusion, which, perhaps, has its own explanation. Caterpillars did not expect such an experiment, but made scientists think about this issue even more.

Examples of mimicry in nature

The mechanism of color mimicry appeared in animals andinsects during evolution. As it usually happens, during the course of natural selection the fittest individuals survive. Color change helps living creatures to blend in with their environment.

Simple examples of such adaptation can servecaterpillars that pretend to be twigs, or the white hare, which during autumn molt changes color to a lighter one. This allows him to hide most effectively from predators in the snow.

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Scientists blinded caterpillars for experiment

To shed light on the issues of color mimicry amongthe caterpillars were decided by the biologists of the University of Liverpool under the leadership of Ilik Saccheri. For the experiment, they selected a group of caterpillars of the birch moth (Biston betularia). In the caterpillar stage, this insect can dynamically change color, adapting to the environment.

This type of caterpillar has tiny receptors,which are called ocelia. These are eyes containing only one lens. Unlike facet eyes, the ocelia are not divided into ommatidia (a structural and functional unit of the facet eye). Their scientists painted over with black paint, depriving the caterpillars of the opportunity to see the color of their environment.

Many previous studies have shownthat insects adapt to environmental conditions precisely due to the visual system. So, for example, in one of the experiments, Indian stickmakers basically adjusted their color to the color of the paint that was used to paint their eyes.

Do the caterpillars have eyes

As tools for research duringThe experiment used sticks of different colors, on which the caterpillars were planted. One of the sticks was white, the second was black, the third was brown, and the fourth was green.

Half of the caterpillars were painted over, and the secondhalf not. Then they were alternately planted on different sticks, and even despite the painted ocelia, the caterpillars changed color under the environmental conditions in which they found themselves. It is worth noting that the result was not one hundred percent, but significantly exceeded the probability of random coincidence. Blind caterpillars in 75-80 percent of the case chose the color correctly.

This is a very good indicator, which is bright.suggests that this species has the ability to provide visual hypereception. Further research showed that in different places of their bodies there are photosensitive receptors - opsins. This allows them to determine the color of surrounding objects not only with the help of their organs of vision.

On the one hand, the experimental results cancall meaningless. On the other hand, this opens up a whole new mechanism for adaptation in a living environment. If before that it was believed that reading information is possible only at the expense of the organs of vision, now we understand that this is not so. Scientists, in turn, will be able to further study this interesting and promising mechanism.

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