Examples of organisms that undergo metamorphosis


Metamorphosis is a biological process through which organisms undergo significant physical and physiological changes during their development. These transformations often involve changes in body structure, behavior, and habitat. While many people are familiar with the concept of metamorphosis in insects like butterflies and beetles, numerous other organisms also undergo this fascinating process. In this article, we will explore examples of organisms from various taxonomic groups that undergo metamorphosis.

1. Insects

1.1 Butterflies and Moths

Butterflies and moths are classic examples of organisms that undergo complete metamorphosis. They start their lives as eggs, which hatch into larvae or caterpillars. The caterpillars go through several stages of growth, called instars, during which they feed voraciously. After reaching a certain size, they enter the pupal stage, where they undergo a complete transformation inside a protective casing called a chrysalis (in butterflies) or a cocoon (in moths). Finally, they emerge as fully developed adult insects with wings.

1.2 Beetles

Beetles also undergo complete metamorphosis. They begin as eggs, hatch into larvae called grubs, and then enter a pupal stage. During the pupal stage, they undergo extensive internal restructuring before emerging as adult beetles. The pupal stage of beetles is often spent underground or inside a protective structure like a cocoon.

1.3 Flies

Flies, such as fruit flies and houseflies, undergo a type of metamorphosis known as complete metamorphosis. Their life cycle starts with eggs, which hatch into larvae known as maggots. The maggots feed and grow until they enter the pupal stage. Inside the pupa, they undergo a dramatic transformation before emerging as adult flies.

2. Amphibians

2.1 Frogs and Toads

Frogs and toads undergo a type of metamorphosis known as incomplete metamorphosis. They begin their lives as aquatic eggs, which hatch into tadpoles. Tadpoles have gills and live exclusively in water, feeding on algae and other small organisms. As they grow, they develop lungs and legs. Eventually, they undergo a transformation known as metamorphosis, where their tails shrink, and they develop into adult frogs or toads capable of living on land.

3. Fish

3.1 Flatfish

Flatfish, such as flounders and sole, undergo a unique type of metamorphosis called indirect development. They start their lives as larvae with eyes positioned symmetrically on either side of their head. However, as they grow, one eye migrates to the other side of their body, and they undergo significant changes in body shape and coloration. This adaptation allows them to lie flat on the ocean floor and camouflages them from predators.

4. Reptiles

4.1 Turtles

Turtles undergo a type of metamorphosis called partial metamorphosis. When turtle hatchlings emerge from their eggs, they have soft shells and are usually more vulnerable. As they grow, their shells harden, and they become more adapted to their environment. While the transformation is not as dramatic as in other organisms, turtles still undergo important changes during their development.

5. Mollusks

5.1 Cephalopods

Cephalopods, such as squids and octopuses, undergo a type of metamorphosis called direct development. They start their lives as miniature versions of adults and do not go through a distinct larval stage. However, they still undergo growth and development, with changes in body proportions and behavior as they mature.


Metamorphosis is a fascinating and diverse biological process that occurs in various organisms across different taxonomic groups. From insects like butterflies and beetles to amphibians like frogs, and even fish, reptiles, and mollusks, many organisms undergo remarkable transformations throughout their lives. These metamorphic changes enable them to adapt to different environments, exploit new food sources, and maximize their chances of survival and reproductive success. Understanding the mechanisms and ecological significance of metamorphosis in different organisms continues to be a subject of scientific exploration and discovery.

Frequently Asked Questions: Metamorphosis

1. What is metamorphosis?

Metamorphosis is a biological process that involves a dramatic change in the body structure and physiology of an organism as it progresses through different life stages. It is commonly observed in insects, amphibians, and some other animal groups.

2. Which organisms undergo metamorphosis?

Metamorphosis is most commonly observed in insects, such as butterflies, beetles, and flies. It also occurs in other animal groups, including amphibians (e.g., frogs and salamanders), crustaceans (e.g., crabs and lobsters), and some fish species.

3. What are the different types of metamorphosis?

There are two main types of metamorphosis:

  • Complete metamorphosis: In complete metamorphosis, the organism undergoes distinct developmental stages: egg, larva, pupa, and adult. The larval stage, also known as a caterpillar or grub, looks completely different from the adult stage. Examples of insects that undergo complete metamorphosis include butterflies, beetles, and bees.
  • Incomplete metamorphosis: In incomplete metamorphosis, the organism goes through three stages: egg, nymph, and adult. The nymph stage resembles a miniature version of the adult and undergoes gradual changes until reaching adulthood. Examples of organisms that undergo incomplete metamorphosis include grasshoppers, dragonflies, and true bugs.

4. What are the benefits of metamorphosis?

Metamorphosis provides several benefits to organisms:

  • Specialization: Metamorphosis allows organisms to undergo distinct stages specialized for different functions. For example, in insects, the larval stage is adapted for feeding and growth, while the adult stage is specialized for reproduction and dispersal.
  • Reduced Competition: By occupying different ecological niches at different life stages, organisms that undergo metamorphosis can reduce competition for resources within their own species.
  • Adaptability: Metamorphosis allows organisms to adapt to different environments or changes in their surroundings. For example, the aquatic larvae of amphibians can live in water, while the adult stage can inhabit land.

5. How does metamorphosis occur?

Metamorphosis is controlled by hormonal and genetic factors. Hormones, such as juvenile hormone and ecdysone, regulate the timing and progression of different stages. Genetic programs within the organism’s cells control the physical changes that occur during each stage, including the development of new body structures and the breakdown and reformation of tissues.

6. Can metamorphosis occur in humans?

Metamorphosis, as commonly observed in insects and other animals, does not occur in humans. However, humans undergo their own form of metamorphosis during development, transitioning from an embryo to a fetus and eventually to an adult. This process involves significant changes in body structure and function, but it is not typically referred to as metamorphosis.

These are some of the frequently asked questions about metamorphosis. If you have more specific questions or need further information, feel free to ask!