Country diary: a caterpillar transforms into a four-eyed, horned snake

The Long Mynd, Shropshire: The caterpillar was so different from the large, pink and olive adult moth because it really was a chimera

A caterpillar crossed the path in a lumbering panic, suddenly exposed to the light and space of the valley floor, the boots of walkers and the teeth of dogs. It seemed so vulnerable that I picked it up to move it to safety, whereupon it became something else. Its head withdrew into the thick of its 80mm olive and black body, inflating two sets of eye-spots. Its horned tail-end rose upright in a snake-like strike posture. This was the classic pose of Deilephila elpenor, the large elephant hawk moth, so called because of its trunk-like caterpillar.

Related: Elephants needing a room: hawkmoths on the march for a pupal pad

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Source: The Guardian
Country diary: a caterpillar transforms into a four-eyed, horned snake