A tortoise of a different kind …..

Museum friend John Costello of Port St John’s alerted the institution to a strange and alien looking ‘creature’. He in turn was directed to the find on Second Beach at Port St John’s by Marianne Whitaker.

So what is the animal in the pic below??

D70_7424-001

Larva of the tortoise beetle approx. 10mm
Picture credit: John Costello

A close inspection and interpretation by museum scientist Kevin Cole revealed the animal to be the larva of a tortoise beetle of the genus Aspidimorpha. The photo clearly illustrates the build up of cast off skins and fecal material on its tail – usually held over the spiny body for protection, especially from ants.

The number of instars (larval stages) is not known, but the accumulation described above is apparently restricted to the first two instars.

When the larva is fully grown it will attach to a leaf and stop eating (which results in the ‘tail’ drying up and falling off). The skin then breaks apart and a flattened green pupa emerges. About fourteen days later the adult tortoise beetle will finally emerge.

Aspidomorpha puncticosta. Dune Tortoise Beetle, 13mm. [Image by M. Picker & C. Griffiths, from Field Guide to Insects of South Africa].

Aspidomorpha puncticosta. Dune Tortoise Beetle, 13mm. [Image by M. Picker & C. Griffiths, from Field Guide to Insects of South Africa].

Please report any new finds of this nature to the East London Museum.

Advertisements

About East London Museum Science

Conservation Biologist East London Museum South Africa
This entry was posted in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s