Scientists Say: Larva

This is an immature life stage, usually of an insect


Hey, baby. This is a mosquito larva, an immature stage between the egg and an adult.


Larva (noun, “LAHR-vah”)

This is an immature life stage of an insect. But some people also use the term to describe the early life stages of fish, frogs or other animals. Usually, the larva looks very different from the adult it will become. A caterpillar, for example, doesn’t look much like a butterfly. The larval stage of the insect may also have completely different organs and structures than the adult, as well as a different diet. A frog larva has gills and breathes water, while the adult frog will come to the surface to fill its lungs with air.

Larvae (the plural of larva) are often adapted to very different environments than they will live in as adults. Adult mosquitoes are airborne, for instance. But their larvae hang out in small pockets of still water. There they gobble up algae and bacteria living on the water’s surface.

In a sentence

The larva of a cattle eyeworm infects the stomach of a fly, but guess where it goes after it grows up.

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Bethany Brookshire was a longtime staff writer at Science News Explores and is the author of the book Pests: How Humans Create Animal Villains. She has a Ph.D. in physiology and pharmacology and likes to write about neuroscience, biology, climate and more. She thinks Porgs are an invasive species.

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