Like coral, this undescribed caterpillar species bridges the gap between animal and plant, undergoing metamorphosis that sees a total change in behaviour and growth.
During spring and summer the caterpillar eats its way through sparse vegetation to give it strength to survive hibernation. I have found through observation that it is a particularly resourceful insect, and it needs to be to cope with high altitude desert where leaves are few and far between. I have seen it cling to the underside of a lizard in order to get from one small oasis to another. It manages to do this without being detected and eaten, though I am still not sure how it achieves this feat.
At the end of autumn, while in its larval stage, the caterpillar buries into the ground to overwinter. It uses its reinforced front end and many feet, to move 100mm into the soil. Once it has reached the ideal depth, it curls up into a ball, its many legs forming a casing around it. Then, in spring, as an adult, it grows a single, thin appendage up through the soil and 100mm into the air.
From the appendage, the ‘stem’, growths start to appear. These are the bodies of asexual reproduction. New organisms, but still attached and genetically identical. They are sticky, hairy and give off a sweet scent that attracts small insects. The insects stick to the outside of the offspring and are slowly digested through the hairs. When the offspring are fully formed, the appendage bows to the ground with the weight. As the offspring touch the ground, they detach and crawl away to carry on independently. The adult slowly desiccates, never to move again.