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