Feature Journal

Peruvian Amazon’s Jewel Caterpillar: The Forest Nudibranch

17 August 2015

More from the Peruvian Amazon

There were many fascinating finds during my week-long stay in Tambopata Research Center of the Peruvian Amazon, and one of the most bizarre had to be what we called the jewel caterpillar. These larvae from the Dalceridae family are also nicknamed the nudibranch of the rainforest, the walking diamond, the slug caterpillar, and sometimes even referred to as the goo-spines. Regardless of the name, seeing them in real life was an awesome treat!

This post will also feature some of the other interesting caterpillars that we’ve spotted during this trip. Unfortunately, most are not identified yet. Appreciate any input for them!

Thanks to Jeff Cremer and Vico Moscoso for ploughing through the trails with me!

Good news if you are interested to make trips to Tambopata – readers of this blog can get a 10% discount from bookings to the Peruvian Amazon via Rainforest Expeditions – just mention the discount code SGMACRO when making your reservations!

    Jewel caterpillar (Dalceridae) - DSC_3813
  1. Jewel caterpillar (Dalceridae)

    The glassy, gooey surface makes the jewel caterpillar a sight to behold.

  2. Jewel caterpillar (Dalceridae) - DSC_3815
  3. Jewel caterpillar (Dalceridae)

    Lateral view. Does it look like jelly as well? The adult fuzzy moth is not as spectacular, so I could not find it in my photo archive to show here.

  4. Jewel caterpillar (Dalceridae) - DSC_3818
  5. Jewel caterpillar (Dalceridae)

    Close up on the goo-spines. Such squeee.

  6. Caterpillar - DSC_4338
  7. Caterpillar

    After the gooey, here’s the hairy! Though the hair is not as thick as the Donald Trump Caterpillar, it was quite a tuft and made me want to avoid touching it.

  8. Caterpillar - DSC_4340
  9. Caterpillar

    Tried looking for the face, but everything was covered. Not even sure if I got the front or rear!

  10. Owl butterfly larva (Caligo sp.) - DSC_3663
  11. Owl butterfly larva (Caligo sp.) ID by Troy Alexander

    A majestically decorated head of this caterpillar reminded me of the Plain Nawab shot in Singapore.

  12. Owl butterfly larva (Caligo sp.) - DSC_3667
  13. Owl butterfly larva (Caligo sp.) ID by Troy Alexander

    Dorsal view looks very plain. If anything, it might be camouflaging itself as a stick.

  14. Owl butterfly larva (Caligo sp.) - DSC_3668
  15. Owl butterfly larva (Caligo sp.) ID by Troy Alexander

    Lateral view, showing the ear-like endings on the head.

  16. Bird dung caterpillar - DSC_1512
  17. Bird dung caterpillar

    This poop pile is a caterpillar as well! Remaining coiled up and motionless, coupled with the wet and knobbly appearance, it certainly looked like bird dung from afar.

  18. Bird dung caterpillar - DSC_1515
  19. Bird dung caterpillar

    Dorsal view reveals a swollen posterior.

  20. Bird dung caterpillar - DSC_1517
  21. Bird dung caterpillar

    Not too enthusiastic about walking, as it got disturbed and trudged away.

  22. Caterpillar - DSC_2646
  23. Caterpillar

    Another super spiny candidate with feathery tips to the spines.

  24. Caterpillar - DSC_2645
  25. Caterpillar

    Do not touch. 🙂

  26. Caterpillar - DSC_1447
  27. Caterpillar

    Interesting looking one with a posterior dorsal horn, as well as one in the anterior half of its body.

  28. Caterpillar - DSC_1983
  29. Caterpillar

    Spotted on one of our night walks was this giant green fuzzy cat!

  30. Caterpillar - DSC_1986
  31. Caterpillar

    It was around 3 inches long.

  32. Caterpillar - DSC_1993
  33. Caterpillar

    Dropped to the ground, so we picked it up with a stick to shoot the ventral view.

  34. Caterpillar - DSC_2006
  35. Caterpillar

    With a close up to the head, sticking out like a sore thumb.

  36. Caterpillar - DSC_1995
  37. Caterpillar

    The close up on the feet was quite fascinating as well!

  38. Snake mimic chrysalis (Catonephele orites) - DSC_1392
  39. Snake mimic chrysalis (Catonephele orites)

    A mind-boggling chrysalis that appears to look like the head of a snake.

  40. Snake mimic chrysalis (Catonephele orites) - DSC_1394
  41. Snake mimic chrysalis (Catonephele orites)

    Let’s just pretend that we’re looking into the face of the snake.

  42. Snake mimic chrysalis (Catonephele orites) - DSC_1389
  43. Snake mimic chrysalis (Catonephele orites)

    Lateral view. Actually, it reminded me of some cartoon shark.

  44. Snake mimic chrysalis (Catonephele orites) - DSC_1395
  45. Snake mimic chrysalis (Catonephele orites)

    Found at least 2 of these in our night walks.

  46. Caterpillar - DSC_1107
  47. Caterpillar

    Looks like a common looking caterpillar from afar, but on closer observation, there were numerous white vein-like patterns “growing” out from the sides!

  48. Caterpillar - DSC_1108
  49. Caterpillar

    Lateral view. Perhaps it was preparing for the next instar.

  50. Caterpillar - DSC_1109
  51. Caterpillar

    Close up of the head!

  52. Caterpillar - DSC_1286
  53. Caterpillar

    Also highly reflective, but nothing of the likes of the dalcerid.

  54. Caterpillar - DSC_1148
  55. Caterpillar

    Yet another do-not-touch caterpillar!

I spent most of my time checking out spiders, and these caterpillars were just some of the interesting ones that we found along the way. Given more time in the field, I’m sure that the Peruvian Amazon would be able to offer a lot more rare and beautiful finds!

Remember to follow my work on Facebook, Twitter or Flickr for the most updated posts!

More from the Peruvian Amazon




Hi my name is Nicky Bay. I am a macro photographer, instructor and book author, travelling the world to document the vast micro biodiversity that nature has to offer. Follow my updates and discover with me the incredible beauty and science behind our planet's micro creatures!

Copyright Notice

All images © 2008-2024 Nicky Bay unless stated otherwise. Reproduction of any content without permission is prohibited. Please read the Image Use Policy and contact [email protected] for licensing requests.

Mailing List

Like the content here? Get notified for new posts, stories, workshops and book launches! Your email will never be shared with others.

Like the content here? Get notified for new posts, stories, workshops and book launches! Your email will never be shared with others.