Active, feeding stage in the development of many animals, occurring after birth or hatching and before the adult form is reached. Larvae are structurally different from adults and often are adapted to a different environment. Some species have free-living larvae but sessile (affixed) adults, the moving larvae thus helping to spread the species; others have aquatic larvae but terrestrial adults. Most larvae are tiny; many are dispersed by entering a host's body, where the adult form of the parasite emerges. Many invertebrates (e.g., cnidarians) have simple larvae. Flukes have several larval stages, and annelids, mollusks, and crustaceans have various larval forms. Insect larvae are called caterpillars, grubs, maggots, or worms; the larval stage of many insects may last much longer than the adult stage (e.g., some cicadas live 17 years as larvae and a week as adults). Echinoderms also have larval forms. The larvae of frogs and toads are called tadpoles. Seealso metamorphosis, pupa.
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In Roman mythology, the larvae or lemures (singular lemur) were the spectres or spirits of the dead; they were the malignant version of the lares. Some Roman writers describe lemures as the common name for all the spirits of the dead, and divide them into two classes: the lares, or the benevolent souls of the family, which haunted and guarded the domus or household, and the larvae, or the restless and fearful souls of wicked men. But the more common idea was that the Lemures and Larvae were the same. They were said to wander about at night and to torment and frighten the living.
On May 9, 11, and 13, the Lemuralia or Lemuria, the feast of the Lemures, occurred, when black beans were offered to the Larvae in the hopes of propitiating them; loud noises were also used to frighten them away.
Lemurs were so named by Linnaeus for their big eyes, nocturnal habits and unearthly noises they make at night. Some species of lemur were identified by their calls before scientists had seen individuals.