Imaginal Cells and Why I Teach Science

Imaginal Cells: From Caterpillar To Butterfly

After a period of ravenous consumption, the caterpillar finds a perch and forms a chrysalis.

The end result, we know, is a butterfly. But the mind-blowing thing here is that there is no structural similarity at all between a caterpillar and a butterfly.

Inside of the chrysalis, the caterpillar actually dissolves into organic ooze. Cells, which are aptly called “Imaginal Cells,” begin to emerge. This is what starts the process of creating a new form and structure.

At first the Imaginal Cells – the seeds of future potential, which contain the blueprint of a flying creature – operate independently as single-cell organisms.

They are viewed as threats and are attacked by the caterpillar’s immune system. But they persist, multiply, and form connections with each other.

The Imaginal Cells communicate more, creating larger and larger cooperative networks until they eventually hit a tipping point. And a butterfly is born.

If you never knew about the process of metamorphosis, you would assume the caterpillar just consumes and consumes, until it exhausts its environment. Yet a plot twist happens, and the consumptive caterpillar becomes a butterfly ~ a vastly different creature.

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