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Nature Note: Insect Metamorphosis

Nature Note: Insect Metamorphosis

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Metamorphosis is a biological process whereby an animal changes from an immature form to an adult form. It involves going through distinct physiological stages, and is seen in some fish, amphibians (frogs, toads, salamanders) and insects. The term metamorphosis is derived from the Greek words meta “transforming” and “form.” It may be complete or incomplete.

Incomplete metamorphosis in insects involves three stages – egg, nymph, adult. The immature stages (nymphs) look like miniature adults. Examples include grasshoppers, cockroaches and the true bugs (cicadas, aphids, stink bugs, and others). Katydids, grasshoppers and crickets belong to the same family.

During complete insect metamorphosis, there are four stages – egg, larva, pupa, adult. Larval stages are called caterpillars, grubs and maggots. Caterpillars are the larvae of butterflies and moths, grubs the larvae of beetles and maggots the larvae of flies.

Pupae of the various insect groups have different names. For example, a chrysalis is the pupa of a butterfly, cocoon of a moth, tumbler of a mosquito and so on. There are many kinds of pupae, each with a different name.

For insects with incomplete morphogenesis, all three stages are seen during the wintertime. Most of what we see during the winter for insects with complete morphogenesis are eggs and pupae. There may be some larvae and adults in leaf litter.


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