Caterpillar's costumes exposed

From Times Staff and Wire Reports

A hormone is the secret behind the unusual ability of young swallowtail caterpillars to disguise themselves as bird droppings and then as the leaves they live on before becoming butterflies, Japanese researchers found.

The researchers said in Friday's journal Science that a special juvenile hormone keeps larvae of the butterfly Papilio xuthus, common in Japan, in their black and white bird- excrement camouflage. Then levels of this hormone drop, triggering the green-leaf phase.

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