A nicotine puffing caterpillar, now this can’t be true, or can it? It really is true, but the caterpillar doesn’t get nicotine from puffing on cigarettes, it puffs out nicotine. Seriously addicted smokers are no stranger to the presence of nicotine. It can appear as stains on their teeth and fingers. But these are only stains, not puffs of cloud, and will eventually go by quitting the habit. Although, the terrible smell of tobacco on a smokers breath could be enough to be considered as puffs of the toxin. So what’s the deal with this caterpillar?
The nicotine puffing caterpillars are known as tobacco hornworm caterpillars. They eat tobacco plants that contain nicotine, and it remains in their body. This substance is toxic, and if a person is exposed to large quantities it will kill them, or seriously poison them. This grub has a gene that shifts this toxin to external respiratory openings known as spiracles. It’s through these little holes that the caterpillar can puff nicotine.
Why does the caterpillar puff nicotine?
Simply put, it’s a grub. Just about anything can, and will eat it given even half a chance. Most animals, be they mammals, insects or reptiles have some form of defence mechanism. Sometimes it is camouflage, sometimes it is venom. This animal just happens to use a toxin that it can acquire from its food source to defend itself. When a predator, or any form of threat approaches too close, it will release small puffs of toxic nicotine. The amount of toxins it releases towards its threat is only small, but it is a warning to stay well clear or face the consequences.