Monstrous “inchworms” of the Hawaiian rainforest
This little creature is not a worm at all, but rather a voraciously carnivorous Hawaiian caterpillar of the genus Eupithecia. It was spotted by Ranger Travis in the rainforest near Nāhuku (Thurston Lava Tube) at Hawai‘i Volcanoes National Park earlier this week, and is a stunning example of Hawai‘i’s spectacular biodiversity!
According to scientists, these meat-eating caterpillars are unique to Hawai‘i and are very likely the only carnivorous caterpillars in the world. They wait motionlessly for hours until an unsuspecting insect brushes the tiny hairs on its lower backside. In less than a tenth of a second, the carnivorous caterpillar opens its meat hooks, swings around and slams them shut on its prey. After flaying its impaled victim for a brief second, he sinks his fangs into its head and begins his grisly dinner.
Dare to see how they feed? Check out this video posted on the NatGeo Wild YouTube Channel:
And check out this article in Ecology, re-blogged by M.L. Henneman on Bioblog by Biotunes, for more images and another cool-but-creepy video:
As Ranger Travis says, if these things were 10 feet tall, nobody would go into the Hawaiian rainforest again!