Thanks to the magic of dissection, we have a pretty good idea of the changes that occur when a caterpillar spins its chrysalis and enters its metamorphosis -- the developmental stage that sees it move from the juvenile larval stage to the gorgeous adult life of a butterfly.
However, as you might have already guessed, dissection destroys the specimen, meaning that researchers are unable to follow the full development of a creature. We do know that the caterpillar will use enzymes to break down some of its proteins to reform; Scientific American called this a cocoon full of "caterpillar soup." However, scientists have performed research revealing that while some breakdown occurs, the idea of caterpillar soup is mostly wrong (but still gross).
Using micro-computed tomography, or micro-CT scanning, which uses X-ray imaging to re-create 3D cross-sections of the scanned object, Tristan Rowe and Russell Garwood from the U.K's University of Manchester and Thomas Simonsen from London's Natural History Museum have discovered exactly what happens to a painted lady butterfly inside the chrysalis. … Read more