Scientists have discovered that a caterpillar called Uraba lugens will wear an abandoned exoskeleton on its head, like a hat, to protect itself from predators,media CNET reported. The unusual caterpillar, mainly found in Australia and New Zealand, wears its old molten skin sizzles into a strange hat. This strange behavior gives it the nickname “Mad Hatter” because it is based on the “Mad Hat” character in Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland.
Stacked heads may sound like a terrible fashion style, but it has an important purpose. “They use it to fight back against predators,” photographer Alan Henderson told New Scientist on June 24. The “mad hat caterpillar” habit has received a lot of attention online thanks to Henderson’s latest photo shoot for Minibe Wildlife, queensland resource centre.
Another name for Uraba lugens is the gum leaf slug, because it eats a lot of eucalyptus leaves until their veins. This gives the caterpillars enough energy to eventually become worms.
The green and yellow caterpillar is about 0.8 inches (2 cm) long — its exoskeleton can be molted up to 13 times in the caterpillar’s form, eventually rotating its own cocoon. Each time the skin is molted, the stack of its “skull” increases. In addition, each short is slightly larger than the previous one, because the caterpillar itself is growing.
Although the Uraba lugens caterpillar may seem like an interesting insect, many farmers in New Zealand and Australia consider it to be quite a pest. According to the New Zealand Agriculture and Forestry Authority and the New Zealand Forest Research Institute, this is because it often eats the leaves of eucalyptus trees and other plants.