9 September 2013
These “caterpillars” are the larvae of the pine sawfly, Neodiprion sp. They were grazing on a small pine in my front yard.
Sawflies are relatives of bees, wasps, and ants – they’re members of the Hymenoptera. But their larvae look so much like the larvae of butterflies and moths (Lepidoptera) and flies (Diptera), don’t they? Beetles, too (Coleoptera) have “grubby” larval morphology. They’re wormy things, long bags of hungry guts – all of them, in spite of the disparate appearance of their adult forms. Evolution, of course, has an explanation for this similarity: it’s evidence of a shared common ancestor. Darwin explored embryology as one of his principle bodies of evidence in support of evolutionary theory when he first wrote it up in 1859. It’s more commonly celebrated in terms of vertebrate embryology, but it applies equally compellingly to insect development.
Thank you, sawfly youngsters, for making me think about that a bit more…
I was struck by how many pairs were sharing a single pine needle. It reminded me of Lady and the Tramp, slurping that common spaghetti noodle.