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Sabre-toothed, big-eyed, horrific: Phyllodes imperialis caterpillar

Community and ForumBlogSabre-toothed, big-eyed, horrific: Phyllodes imperialis caterpillar

Lev Bely, 02.11.2012 18:21

We may never know whether the animal world celebrates Halloween or not, but if they actually did, the pink underwing moth's caterpillar (Phyllodes imperialis) could be among the first nominees for the best Halloween costume. Looking at this, one may fancy aliens, extraterrestrials, any gattackers but the moth of the family Noctuidae, which is peacefully disappearing somewhere deep in the Australian rainforest.

This moth keeps declining even despite having such a fearsome caterpillar costume that comprises a few horrendous figures in one, like big strong teeth in a row, large eyes encircled with yellow and abnormally widened pupils. This amazing cosmic critter is rather rare to meet, still photographer Lui Weber managed to find it and take a few shots just by All Hallows' Eve.

P. imperialis itself is nearly a saint. Causes no damage, lives by itself in a deep subtropical rainforest at about 600m above sea-level, and spends its whole life by its host plant, a fragile vine shrub Carronia multisepalea.

“Sadly this moth is very rare I only know of a single adult seen last year so I do not have photographs of the adult yet. This southern subspecies is listed as nationally endangered in Australia.” said Lui.

One of the few P. imperialis habitats is south-eastern Queensland, where it's spread from Nambour to the border between Queensland and New South Wales. Yet the species still can be met somewhere else, since there are spots to be found out, Lui says.

“I was only known to breed in a single location in upland rainforest however this year I have discovered another three locations and a colleague has located one additional site making five locations in total.”

The New South Wales government has put P. imperialis on the species endangered list.

“Potential breeding habitat is restricted to areas where the caterpillar's food plant, a native rainforest vine, Carronia multisepalea, occurs in subtropical rainforest. Adult Pink Underwing Moths require the darkness supplied by the vine and other rainforest vegetation in order to breed.” it said.

Now the authorities are considering options of increasing P. imperialis populations.

MailOnline, http://www.dailymail.co.uk

Photo: P. imperialis caterpillar, Lui Weber / Rex Features, MailOnline, http://www.dailymail.co.uk

All the rest posts on: Australia, species recovery, curiosity, species decline


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