Wednesday, November 09, 2016

Gilded Cocoons

Cocoons are usually drab and unremarkable. It is the multi-colored caterpillars and butterflies that get all the attention.

As if to disprove a point, something unusual was seen today on a milkweed tree (Calotropis procera) in our neighborhood. Tucked away under a calotropis leaf, I came across one of the most beautiful cocoons I have seen so far.

It is designed as though a jeweler was creating a line of cocoons under the category 'Understated Elegance'. At first sight it looks only neat and compact, like a shapely fruit dangling on the leaf. And then you notice something glinting in the winter morning sunlight - a neat line of golden dots that mark a ridge, and then, a few more of these gilded dots scattered as a parting flourish, on the lower side.

A few days down the line, an Oriental Plain Tiger butterfly will emerge from a tiny hole, just above those golden dots, wait for its crumpled wings to dry and unfurl, and then fly away.

The question that dangles in the air is - why would the butterfly want to advertise its presence, at the most vulnerable stage of its life-cycle, by having such an eye-catching design on its cocoon? What could possibly be the evolutionary advantage of having that gilded design on your sleeping bag?


* Butterflies of India - Oriental Plain Tiger -
* Calotropis procera --

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