Press J to jump to the feed. Press question mark to learn the rest of the keyboard shortcuts

Scientists have discovered 12 species of caterpillars that can survive for weeks underwater without ever breaking the surface. They don't have gills and they don't hold their breath.

83% Upvoted
This thread is archived
New comments cannot be posted and votes cannot be cast
Sort by
level 1
11 points · 8 years ago

Sounds like they have gill like skin. Perhaps they do have gills, but they don't look like gills. They still process oxygen from water. Maybe they have aqualungs and jethro tull was really singing about caterpillars.

level 2
2 points · 8 years ago

If you read the article it suggests that they absorb the oxygen in moving water through pores in their skin.

level 3

So I guess they don't have a Locomotive Breath.

level 2
-2 points · 8 years ago

Any Jethro Tull reference deserves an upvote

level 1

Best. Fish bait. Ever.

level 2

If only you didn't have to skewer their whole body with a hook

level 3
1 point · 8 years ago

The best way to bait worms and fish is in a manner that is not fatal. From the article however it has to be high oxygen running water but perhaps they can by bred to breath in lower environments. robots.

level 1


level 1
4 points · 8 years ago


Damnit. Now I actually have to RTFA.

level 2
3 points · 8 years ago

Tell us how they do it when you are done

level 3
6 points · 8 years ago

From TFA:

It isn't yet clear how the insects do it ... The animals drowned quickly when kept in standing water, so they seem to need the higher levels of oxygen present in running water, and probably absorb it directly through pores in their body, the scientists said.

So basically what they do is use a silk dragline to secure themselves to a rock and then sit in the current, absorbing oxygen somehow.

level 4
1 point · 8 years ago

You're a hero.

level 5
2 points · 8 years ago

When I read the first post in this thread, I thought tycho77 was saying "what do they do?!" as in "what do they do with this awesome superpower!?"

level 3

They probably break down H2O and absorb oxygen and then shit out the hydrogen.

level 4

No, that's dragons. But they shit it Cartman style.

Plus fire.

level 4

That's right, they're FUSION CATERPILLARS

level 5
1 point · 8 years ago · edited 8 years ago

No, breaking down water into hydrogen and oxygen would make them electrolysis caterpillars. Electrolysis uses electricity to split up or combine different elements/compounds that wouldn't happen on their own (at least not as quickly) - basically creating nonspontaneous chemical reactions. In this case, that'd be breaking H2O into H2 and O2.

They'd be fusion caterpillars if they could convert two beryllium atoms into one oxygen atom, or something along those lines (e.g. carbon + helium, nitrogen + hydrogen, etc). Fusion is combining multiple atoms into a single heavier atom. They'd be fission caterpillars if they could take a flourine atom and break it into a oxygen and hydrogen atom, or something along those lines (e.g. one sulfur atom into two oxygen atoms). Fission is splitting a single atom into several lighter atoms.

To the real chemists & physicists out there - be gentle, the last chemistry class I had was 15 years ago in high school.

level 6

Yeah, but ELECTROLYSIS CATERPILLARS does not sound nearly as cool as FUSION CATERPILLARS.

level 7

That's true. Electrolysis doesn't exactly roll off the tongue.

level 1
2 points · 8 years ago

It'd be awesome if this turned out to be some form of supercavitation releasing gaseous O2 and that's how they're absorbing the oxygen.

It would explain why they need the fast-running water, too.

level 1

Tankless scuba diving please!

level 1

Full Article here (PDF).

level 1

In other news, hundreds of caterpillars down in mysterious attacks.

level 1

That's no caterpillar.....

level 1

My guess is they have hydrophobic structures with a high surface area, maybe oily hairs or maybe just silk, that serves to nucleate precipitation of super-saturated gases from the water, like the smoke and dust particles that allow clouds to form in the upper atmosphere.

Community Details





This community is a place to share and discuss new scientific research. Read about the latest advances in astronomy, biology, medicine, physics, social science, and more. Find and submit new publications and popular science coverage of current research.

Create Post
r/science Rules
Must be peer-reviewed research
No second-hand summaries, reviews, or reposts
No editorialized, sensationalized or biased titles
Research must be <6 months old
No off-topic comments
No jokes or memes
No abusive or offensive comments
No anecdotal comments
Not scientific or dismissive of established work
No medical advice
r/Science Ask Me Anything

We've discontinued our regular 'Ask Me Anything' Q&A series. You can view all the previous AMAs at the link below.

Verified User Program

Do you have a college degree in a scientific field? Get flair in r/science to indicate your expertise!

Related Communities

133,923 subscribers


16,288,231 subscribers


36,599 subscribers

Cookies help us deliver our Services. By using our Services or clicking I agree, you agree to our use of cookies. Learn More.