10 Spectacular Caterpillars That Look Like Snakes

credit: John Flannery/flickr

Gaze into the (fake!) eyes of these master mimics for a glimpse into Mother Nature's sly side. Welcome to wild wonderful world of mimicry, in which animals adapt over time to develop novel features that allow them to appear like something they are decidedly not. Case in point, caterpillars that have morphed into snake-looking things. The following photos show a variety of caterpillar species in different stages – shown in the wider format of a slideshow so that you can see these cutely ferocious beasts in all their tough-guy glory. They're incredible, you won't be disappointed!

credit: Andreas Kay/flickr

On the one hand, caterpillars get to turn into beautiful butterflies, so that's pretty awesome. But in the meantime they are little more than defenseless protein pellets, perfectly packaged for a hungry bird or other predator to dine on. What to do? Pretend to be a snake, of course.

credit: 1oleary

This spicebush swallowtail caterpillar looks more like a lost puppy than a menacing snake, but sometimes this type of defense mechanism works to distract and disorient the predator, rather than to actually threaten it. (Personally, it makes me just want to pick the little thing up and assure it that everything will be ok.)

credit: School of Ecology and Conservation, Bangalore

Along with fake snake eyes and markings, snake-mimicking caterpillars will also duplicate their muses' behavior as well, adding some extra flourishes to their arsenal of "I'm a scary snake" tricks. This great orange tip caterpillar, who is clearly wearing its grumpy pants here, appears to be rearing up in a snake pose.

credit: John Flannery/flickr

While this caterpillar may be more effectively disguised for protection against birds fearing aliens rather than snakes, it's nonetheless a terrific display of mimicry. And how beautiful too, those colors. Bonus trivia: A swallowtail caterpillar like this was the inspiration for the Pokemon Caterpie.

credit: William Warby/flickr

Another contender for the snake-or-alien caterpillar prize, this citrus swallowtail caterpillar has quite the intimidating, and realistic, faux facade. A number of these masters of disguise even have little glints of white on the eyes that mimic the reflection of light. Pretty amazing.

credit: Ilya Carey

This may not be the most fanciful caterpillar of the bunch, but those eyes ... they seem to actually have expression. You can almost feel what this larva is thinking (which is something along the lines of, "please don't eat me").

credit: Peellden

Ok some of these might look snake-ish, but this one is all snake, not only in color and scale-like markings, but in gesture. Looking at it, it's hard to remember that this is actually a caterpillar. Here's some footage of a green vine snake for comparison.

credit: Michael Hodge

Another incredible illustration of amazing fake snake eyes ... as well as the fact that truth really is stranger than fiction.

credit: Andreas Kay

Snake! Seriously, even knowing that this is a caterpillar, I'd still steer far clear of it – I feel like if it has so successfully developed the look and pose of a badass snake, who's to say that it hasn't grown a set of venom-injecting fangs to boot? The one pictured here even closes its fake eyes, which is trippy, and which you can see in the video below. Truly incredible, and just a small reminder of how Mother Nature really is the smartest one on the block.

More nifty nature stories: