Charles Darwin Award and Marsh Prize

This Award is presented in partnership with the Zoological Society of London and recognises the best zoological project by an undergraduate student attending a university in Great Britain or Northern Ireland.

The projects are judged by a panel of experts from the ZSL, who then select the winning study.

The Zoological Society of London is an international scientific, conservation and educational charity whose mission is to promote and achieve the worldwide conservation of animals and their habitats.

(2016 Awards were presented in 2017)

The 2016 winner is Simon Chen

Simon won this Award for his study entitled, ‘Attachment mechanisms in caterpillars’

Caterpillars attach to substrates with highly differentiated abdominal prolegs, and some produce protein-based silk to attach to slippery substrates, at a high energetic cost. Simon investigated how well two species, the Bicyclus anynana and the Arctia caja, attach to non-planar substrates. He also explored whether the Bicyclus anynana adjust silk production to substrate and caterpillar characteristics.

Simon found that caterpillars adjust silk laying behaviour to substrate slope and roughness, and thread strength to roughness. Nevertheless safety factors and safety thread use decreased markedly throughout development. Silk adjustment allowed Bicyclus anynana to avoid unnecessarily producing silk and provided a flexible mechanism for efficient attachment. Scaling relationships suggest a shift in attachment strategy away from mainly investing in silk as caterpillars develop. A possible trade-off between silk-based attachment and direct attachment with more complex attachment devices warrants further investigation.


The Zoological Society of London
Regent's Park