A Feat of Nature

The December assignment for my local camera club was feet.

Feet? Really?

A good assignment as it turned out.

Red squirrels
Our woods abound with these arboreal acrobats. They fly up and down tree trunks and back and forth on branches with amazing agility, their sharp-clawed feet keeping them perfectly balanced. Those same feet serve as knife-and-fork equivalents when it comes to eating.



Scaly legs and feet and sturdy claws remind us of this bird’s ancient reptilian relatives.

These feet suit suit them for both land and water but did you know seagulls could also dance?

It goes like this: standing on grass or earth, a hungry seagull lifts one leg at a time, setting it back down again. Explanation: this sets up vibrations in the soil that supposedly trick worms into thinking that it’s raining so they come to the surface. Outcome: seagull gets lunch.


Large aspen Tortrix caterpillar

When it comes to caterpillars we usually talk about their legs rather than their feet.

This larva of the large aspen Tortrix moth appears to have lots of legs but only the first 3 pairs, grouped just behind its head, are true legs. Each of them ends in a short black claw.

The rest of its “legs” are actually prolegs. This caterpillar has 5 pairs — 4 in the middle and one at the rear. Like real legs, prolegs help the caterpillar walk. They also serve as suction cups so the caterpillar can attach itself to leaves and twigs.

Once this caterpillar turns into a moth, the prolegs disappear leaving only the original 3 pairs of true legs.



There’s not much left of this Pacific Coast red rock crab but when it was scuttling around it was doing so not on feet as we think of them but rather on the tips of 8 legs. It has 10 legs but the first pair have evolved into large and very effective pincers — they’re also pretty good pinchers if you handle one the wrong way.

What neat feet have you seen lately?

Red squirrel    Tamiasciurus hudsonicus
Large aspen Tortrix moth   Choristoneura conflictana 
Red rock crab   Cancer productus