Hi, I'm not sure if this question goes here or in the 'fossil' section. I am in Australia and am lucky enough to have Cairns Birdwing butterfly caterpillars in my garden. These are Australias largest endemic butterflies (I believe) and the caterpillars are enormous and a lot of fun to watch.
My question is, if butterflies were extinct, do we have evidence in the fossil records (including in amber) that would show us what a marvelous creature these are? By that I mean, would we understand their transformation from eggs to caterpillars to chrysalis and eventually to butterfly? I know that there are fossils of moths and butterflies but I've only read (Wikipedia :-) ) about parts of caterpillars being found in fossils - and from this alone I can't imagine that we would make the link to them going on to become butterflies.
I watch caterpillars go into their pre-pupa phase, become a chrysalis and then see a butterfly crawl out a month later but even still I can't comprehend what is happening inside and if I hadn't been taught it at school I would never guess that a caterpillar would turn into anything other than an older caterpillar.And so I wonder, if butterflies were extinct would we just not be aware of this amazing transformation or would we be able to deduct this from fossils?
And I then also wonder what other incredible things insects, reptiles, fish, etc could do, change into, etc where the evidence just hasn't yet been found (or may never been found) in the fossil record. It makes me very appreciative that we still have these amazing insects with us today and can experience it for ourselves, even if we can't understand it!
I was in London just before your Sensational Butterflies exhibition opened so unfortunately I will have to miss out - looks amazing :-)