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Is a butterfly's brain the same as the one it had when it was a caterpillar?

This is a great question! Actually most of the parts (tissue) that we would call the brain in a caterpillar is broken down during metamorphosis and rebuilt in the adult butterfly. Remember we said most. The muscles are also broken down and rebuilt. This makes sense because of what you have probably observed – caterpillars crawl and butterflies walk and fly. They need different types of muscles for the different ways they move.

What is especially interesting is that the brain cells that aren't completely broken down are mostly the ones that send signals to the muscles to tell them to move. So even though the muscles in the caterpillar and butterfly are different, many of the brain cells that signal those muscles in the caterpillar will remain the same through metamorphosis and signal the new muscles in the butterfly. How neat is that?

Question From: Greer
Grade Level: 5

To learn more about butterflies, try these links.

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Be part of Ask A Biologist

by volunteering, or simply sending us feedback on the site. Scientists, teachers, writers, illustrators, and translators are all important to the program. If you are interested in helping with the website we have a Volunteer page to get the process started.