Insect blood is very different from our own. It lacks hemoglobin and platelets, and uses amoeba-like cells called hemocytes to protect the immune system instead of red blood cells.

This insect equivalent to blood – called hemolymph – also functions very differently. Most notably, hemolymph can clot within a matter of seconds after an insect is wounded, drastically limiting potential blood loss.

This rapid action is supposed to give insects, which are vulnerable to dehydration, the greatest chance of survival after sustaining an injury. But until now, scientists did not understand exactly how hemolymph manages to clot so quickly outside of the body. Understanding this mechanism would be an important first step in assessing whether a similar process could be developed and used for human medicine and trauma response.

In a new paper, published in Frontiers in Soft Matter, materials scientists at Clemson University have fully described how the feat is performed by caterpillars of the Carolina sphinx moth for the first time.

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