Division: Endopterygota

A photograph of cinnabar moth caterpillars.

Like all butterflies and moths, these cinnabar moth caterpillars must undergo complete metamorphosis in order to become adults.

The word Endopterygota refers to the development of the wings inside the body. Insects that develop in this way are said to show complete metamorphosis.

In the Endopterygota, the larval stage is totally different from that of the adult, and it is wingless until it reaches the last instar. In many cases the larva feeds on quite different foods and lives in quite different environments from the adult, which gives the species a survival advantage in that it doesn't depend on the same foods or locations throughout its lifecycle.

When it reaches its final instar, the larval skin splits to reveal not another larva but a pupa. This stage is an immobile, non-feeding stage inside which the adult structures are formed. Organs that were undeveloped in the larva grow faster than the rest of the body, especially the wings and sexual and other adult organs.

In the true flies (Diptera), beetles (Coleoptera) and the butterflies and moths (Lepidoptera) the pupa is sometimes contained in a cocoon. Pupae of the true flies can also be enclosed in a puparium, formed from the old hardened larval skin.

Most pupae are exarate, which means that the legs, wings, mouthparts and antennae are not closely pressed to the body. Others, such as the Lepidoptera, have obtect pupae, which means that these structures are cemented to the body and the surface hardened.

The insect orders that undergo complete metamorphosis are:

Back to Insect Orders.