DR JEREMY BURGESS / SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY DR JEREMY BURGESS / SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY
A larva (caterpillar) of the Saturnid moth Samia cynthia, about to undergo ecdysis, or moulting. The larvae of moths and butterflies increase in size by simple growth, punctuated by the casting off of the old skin following the production of a new one beneath it. Each new stage in the life of the larva is known as an instar. Commonly there are between 4 and 9 instars; the number being species-specific. The picture shows 4th instar larva of S. cynthia. The larva is hanging head down from a stem of common privet, Ligustrum vulgare. Ecdysis involves the withdrawal of the larva from its former outer skin, which splits, enabling the new instar to emerge. This process is just beginning, shown by the appearance of granular material on the (old) head (bottom right of the larva) and on its thoracic legs.
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