Trond H. Larsen GS
Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology
In addition to cryptic coloration allowing them to blend in with the tree trunk, these Peruvian caterpillars fool their enemies by foraging together in a large group. As a whole, the caterpillars may appear to be a large patch of lichen. However, every individual must stay tightly within the group in order to maintain the illusion. Moving in groups can also have other benefits, including diluting attacks from predators and parasitoids and increasing foraging efficiency through cooperation. This provides one example of how simple interactions can scale up to form collective behaviors that benefit the species. The rules of movement can be estimated from the turning patterns of individuals in the photograph. Other species use related strategies, such as moving in a single file line which may be interpreted as a snake or a liana.