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You may have heard the word ‘metamorphosis’ before, but do you know what it really means? In this lesson, we will go over metamorphosis and some examples of the interesting creatures that go through this change.

What is Metamorphosis?

As you may already know, baby frogs are tadpoles, and tadpoles look a lot different from the frogs they grow up to be. Not all creatures go through a big change like this in their life cycles. When an animal or an insect goes through such a change, it’s called a metamorphosis.People refer to many different kinds of changes as metamorphoses, like drastic makeovers, for instance.

But in science, the term ‘metamorphosis’ refers to a change that an animal goes through as it grows older. The change has to be significant, or big.This doesn’t refer to how some animals, including humans, develop over time.

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We grow and change from babies to adults gradually and keep the same general physical structure–a body and head, legs and arms. But with a metamorphosis, the animal changes from one form to a very different form.

Frog Metamorphosis

Let’s talk more about the metamorphosis of a frog to better understand this.

The life cycle of a frog
Frog Life Cycle

When baby frogs hatch from the eggs their mother laid, they are called tadpoles. Tadpoles look a lot like little wiggly little fish. However, after they grow for some time, they start to develop back legs.

Over time, the legs grow bigger, and the tadpoles eventually grow front legs. Slowly, the tail grows smaller as the body completely changes, and then the tadpoles become adult frogs. This big, dramatic change–in which the baby looks so different from the adult–is a metamorphosis.

Butterfly Metamorphosis

The elegant butterfly is another creature that goes through metamorphosis.

Caterpillars change into butterflies.
Butterfly Life Cycle

Butterflies have an amazing and beautiful metamorphosis. After hatching from an egg, a caterpillar emerges. Over many days and weeks, it eats a lot of leaves and stems, growing larger and larger. Eventually, when it has grown large enough, the caterpillar forms a chrysalis (a protective surrounding) around itself.

Inside the chrysalis, it changes slowly to later emerge as an adult butterfly. All the stages of the life cycle–egg, caterpillar (also called the larval stage), chrysalis (also called the pupa stage), and butterfly (adult stage)–look very different from one another.

Incomplete Metamorphosis

Some insects go through a metamorphosis that is not so dramatic, so it is called an incomplete metamorphosis.

Grasshoppers, for example, go through an incomplete metamorphosis.

Grasshoppers have an incomplete metamorphosis, during which they develop wings.
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