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Bird has fuzz that mimics poisonous caterpillar to protect itself


Study observed gray-weeping Amazonian chick, which lives in Peru. By resembling a poisonous caterpillar, the cub protects itself from predators.

An Amazonian bird that lives in southeastern Peru has developed a curious defense strategy against predators. As a puppy, the gray weeping (Laniocera hypopyrra) has a fuzz that resembles the hair of a poisonous caterpillar that lives in the area.

The discovery of mimicry was made by researchers participating in a 2012 ecological bird study in the region. They noted that the fluff pattern of the species was very peculiar: with long lintings of vibrant orange color and white tips.


Top image shows gray weeping chick (Laniocera hypopyrra); The image below shows a poisonous caterpillar found in the same region (genus Megalopyge or Podalia sp), which has a pattern similar to the bird's plumage.

The scientists observed that the pups moved their heads slowly from side to side, a movement similar to that of some caterpillars. Then they found the presence of a caterpillar of the genus Megalopyge or Podalia sp, with the same color patterns as the bird's down.

The hypothesis defended by the researchers is that it is a strategy of Batesian mimicry, in which the animal develops characteristics that make it look like another more dangerous species, driving predators away.

The research result was published in the January issue of The American Naturalist.

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