Monarch Watch Blog

Monarch Caterpillar Dorsal Aorta (video)

Tuesday, March 29th, 2011 at 1:17 pm by Chip Taylor
Filed under Monarch Biology | 13 Comments »

serendipity [ser-uhn-dip-i-tee] -noun.
1. an aptitude for making unexpected and fortunate discoveries

Occasionally, there is a little serendipity in the lab. One Friday, a few weeks ago, I noticed an unusual larva, a fourth instar of a “black” larval mutation we are studying. This particular larva was lighter than most and we could see the blood coursing through the dorsal aorta. I said “Let’s get a camera, this is neat!”

In the course of doing the filming, and not doing it well, I kept getting advice from one of our critter crew members Alicia Bigelow, and I soon realized (another bit of serendipity) that Alicia needed to be in charge of the production of video projects that I’ve always wanted to post to Monarch Watch’s YouTube channel. So, here is the first production: the Monarch Caterpillar Dorsal Aorta. In the voice-over I describe the general pattern of blood circulation in insects and arthropods. Chip Taylor | Director, Monarch Watch

  1. 13 Responses to “Monarch Caterpillar Dorsal Aorta (video)”

  2. By Cannie on Mar 30, 2011

    I saw this same type of pulsation in the first Two-tailed Swallowtail caterpillar I ever reared— last fall.

    I would’ve guessed the “phenomenon” to be related to the nervous system! So I’m glad to hear this explanation.

    I think my video shows it even better than this one shows it on the monarch. But I was just lucky! Here’s the link to it:

  3. By Joe Coelho on Mar 30, 2011

    Awesome, Chip! I’m using this in my class next fall.

  4. By Kathy McGrath on Mar 30, 2011

    Thanks for posting this educational video! I hope you will let us know what that “black” larval mutation turns out to look like as a butterfly!

  5. By Coach Maureen Sherman on Mar 30, 2011

    I absolutely love this it makes our interconnections with even our precious monarchs more personal and inspiring too. Thank you!

  6. By tardigrade on Mar 30, 2011

    Excellent! can’t wait to see more!

  7. By Jeanine on Mar 31, 2011

    Great video, I have never seen that before in any of the caterpillars I’ve raised. This would be of wonderful value in any biology classroom.

  8. By Bonnie on Mar 31, 2011

    Thank you so much for sharing! This is a wonderful opportunity for those that would never in a lifetime experience if not for your efforts.
    This was extremely thought provoking and I will be looking forward with more anticipation than usual for the appearance of these creatures!

  9. By Barb DiVizio on Mar 31, 2011

    Wow that is a fantastic video and I cannot wait for more!

  10. By Sylvia Ferron on Apr 8, 2011

    I live em Huffman,TX and i have monarch caterpillars. what should I do when a crisalide fell ? and they are living the milkweed, it is okay?

  11. By Linda Slaymaker on Apr 27, 2011

    My children and I have been raising butterflies for approx 5 years now. We collect eggs from the roadsides in rural texas and bring them home to raise them in a protected environment. This year we have noticed an apparent mutation we have never seen before. Several of the caterpillars have an extra pair of antennae on the thorax, the markings are slightly different, and when the butterflies hatch the thorax is orange, and the wings do not have the distinctive black markings on the inside. approximately 1/4 of our 4 dozen butterflies have this mutation. Otherwise everything else is the same. Do you have any information about this mutation? Unfortuneately we have not yet been able to get a picture.

  12. By Joan on May 3, 2011

    I have been raising Monarchs for twenty years and was not aware of what you presented in the video. Watching this video and finding out about the Dorsal Aorta has been totally fascinating. Thank you for presenting this information. The beautiful and mysterious Monarch continues to amaze me and those I share them with.

  13. By Jackie on May 5, 2011

    That was amazing, thanks for all you do to help the beautiful Monarchs. Keep the videos coming!

  14. By Josh on Jan 25, 2013

    I use to raise Monarchs as a child because i was always interested in bugs and such. I just recently got back into it and it is really fun. This past year I raised and released right around 30 Monarch butterflies. I raised them all indoors and i was lucky. I had maybe 1 or 2 die randomly, and 1 beetle that infiltrated my Milkweed and killed one caterpillar. I had so much fun that I have gathered many seeds and will be trying to grow my own Milkweed this year and though i may not raise as many, i will keep doing my part to keep the Monarch butterfly around.

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