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Wild olive tortoise beetle (larvae)

Physonota alutacea

Description:

This is the larvae of the Wild olive tortoise beetle, which it looks nothing like the adult stage. Adults are 13 mm in size and I'm guessing this larvae is similar not counting the tail. If you look closely in pic 1 you will notice the serrated shell is ingeniously designed to allow it to move its shell and forked tail articularly in all directions. I observed it over several minutes moving slowly and eating its host plant leaf (Cordia boissieri) in a backwards fashion. As it moves backwards it uses its forked tail to not only navigate on the leaf but also for balance. I'm guessing the protective shell and forked tail design are in part a mimicry at the very least to confuse any predator as it is almost always found exposed on top of a leaf.

Habitat:

Spotted on a leaf of its host tree (Cordia boissieri - Mexican olive tree) along a shaded trail thru dense woods at the National Butterfly Center in Mission, Texas.

Notes:

Range: south Texas to Columbia.

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3 Comments

ForestDragon
ForestDragon a year ago

It reminds me of something prehistoric! Such an interesting larva.

Brian38
Brian38 a year ago

Thanks Mark. It's definitely a strange one.

Mark Ridgway
Mark Ridgway a year ago

The adults look ok but this little larva is amazing.

Brian38
Spotted by
Brian38

Texas, USA

Spotted on Oct 9, 2019
Submitted on Oct 27, 2019

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