A backlit moulting katydid. Taken at night in Singapore forest. Closer view
In biology, moulting or molting /ˈmoʊltɪŋ/, also known as sloughing, shedding, or for some species, ecdysis, is the manner in which an animal routinely casts off a part of its body (often but not always an outer layer or covering), either at specific times of year, or at specific points in its life cycle.
Moulting can involve the epidermis (skin), pelage (hair, fur, wool), or other external layer. In some species, other body parts may be shed, for example, wings in some insects. Examples include old feathers in birds, old hairs in mammals (especially dogs and other canidae), old skin in reptiles, and the entire exoskeleton in arthropods.
In arthropods, such as insects, arachnids and crustaceans, moulting is the shedding of the exoskeleton (which is often called its shell), typically to let the organism grow. This process is called ecdysis. It is commonly said that ecdysis is necessary because the exoskeleton is rigid and cannot grow like skin, but this is simplistic, ignoring the fact that turtles do not shed even the rigid external keratinous shell, and that most Arthropoda with soft, flexible skins also undergo ecdysis. The subject is far more complex than a matter of skin rigidity; it includes considerations such as nature of metamorphosis, the differences between the morphology of successive instars, and the fact that a new skin includes new external lenses for eyes etc. (compare this with the replacement of a snake's brille in sloughing). The new exoskeleton is initially soft but hardens after the moulting of the old exoskeleton. The old exoskeleton is referred to as "exuviae".