Moth Remembers Its Caterpillar Days

Female tobacco hornworm moth, Manduca sexta (photo from Wikimedia Commons)

This moth can remember what it learned as a caterpillar.

In 2008, scientists at Georgetown University exposed late-stage tobacco hornworm caterpillars (Manduca sexta) to a specific scent and trained them to avoid it with a mild shock. The caterpillars got the message.

Tobacco hornworm (photo from Wikimedia Commons)
Tobacco hornworm (photo from Wikimedia Commons)

Scientists had thought that metamorphosis changed the brain so much that moths would not remember their caterpillar past. However, the caterpillars that learned about the scent in their last instar remembered the scent when they became moths — and they avoided it.

I wonder if other butterflies and moths remember their final days as caterpillars. Perhaps this is how females know to lay eggs on their host plant. “Hmmm,” says the butterfly, “This smells like the plant where I was feeding before I could fly.”

Read more at this article in Science Daily.

(photos from Wikimedia Commons; click on the captions to see the originals)

1 thought on “Moth Remembers Its Caterpillar Days

  1. After reading this, it’s quite amazing: “that the larva essentially turns to soup and its components are entirely rebuilt as a butterfly”. WOW

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