Newly emerged from the chrysalis hanging next to it, a fat red-and-yellow caterpillar has undergone metamorphosis to turn into this Atala butterfly colorful in its own right. The bright red on the wings and the orange abdomen are warnings to would-be predators that they may find the Atala a bit unpalatable due to the toxins it has incorporated into its body from its larval host plant, the prehistoric Coontie.
A blood red Atala butterfly caterpillar consumes the Coontie host plant that it needs to eat to survive at this young age. The caterpillar takes up the Coontie’s natural toxins and the brilliant red and yellow coloration is a warning that eating the youngster could be dangerous to would-be predators. The adult Atala butterfly’s coloration is also a warning that it might be toxic to predators. As seen in the Audubon House landscaping at the Oslo Riverfront Conservation Area. UPDATE: […]