Wild Things: Life as We Know It | Science | Smithsonian
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(Kenneth H. Thomas / Photo Researchers, Inc.)

Wild Things: Life as We Know It

Caterpillars, Frogs, Big Birds and More...

A Gutsy New Way To Get Around

Caterpillars appear to walk in a wavelike motion
(Kenneth H. Thomas / Photo Researchers, Inc.)
Caterpillars appear to walk in a wavelike motion that starts with their back legs and moves forward. But to the surprise of scientists from Tufts University and elsewhere, the insect gets going when it suddenly thrusts its innards forward; the rest of its body, 16 legs included, catches up like the end of a slinky. The scientists learned this from X-rays of hawkmoth caterpillars in action. They suggest that a similar mechanism—“gut sliding,” they call it—propels other caterpillars. It’s “unlike any form of legged locomotion previously recorded.”

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