Abdominal legs of a silkmoth larva

Abdominal legs of a silkmoth larva

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Credit: DR JEREMY BURGESS/SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY

Caption: A fifth (final) instar larva of the Saturnid moth, Samia cynthia, attached to a stem of privet (Ligustrum vulgare). Mature insects have six thoracic legs. The larvae (caterpillars) of moths and butterflies have in addition eight abdominal legs ( so-called "false legs") and a pair of claspers at the rear of the body. These structures terminate in a contractile pad with a ring of small hooks. They provide the animal with the means to grip the food plant strongly and securely. The picture shows three of the four pairs of false abdominal legs. The feet are blue and yellow: the body of the animal appears as white due to a covering of a powdery deposit, but its underlying colour is blue-green. The distance between each pair of legs in this picture is approximately 6mm.

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Keywords: abdominal legs, biological, biology, claspers, false legs, final instar, insect, instar, samia cynthia, silkmoth, thoracic legs, zoological, zoology

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