Attacus atlas

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Atlas Moth
Attacus atlas qtl1.jpg
Female
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Arthropoda
Class: Insecta
Order: Lepidoptera
Family: Saturniidae
Genus: Attacus
Species: A. atlas
Binomial name
Attacus atlas
(Linnaeus, 1758)

The Atlas moth (Attacus atlas) is a large saturniid moth found in the tropical and subtropical forests of Southeast Asia, and is common across the Malay archipelago.[1]

Atlas moths are considered the largest moths in the world[2] in terms of total wing surface area, reaching upwards of c. 400 cm2 (62 sq in). Their wingspans are also amongst the largest, reaching over 25 cm (10 in). Females are appreciably larger and heavier.

Atlas moths are said to be named after either the Titan of Greek mythology, or their map-like wing patterns. In Hong Kong the Cantonese name translates as "snake's head moth", referring to the apical extension of the forewing, which bears a more than passing resemblance to a snake's head.[3] Japan only has the A. a. ryukyuensis subspecies which is native to the Yaeyama Islands, principally Yonaguni, and as such is called the Yonaguni-san (ヨナグニサン《与那国蚕》?, "Yonaguni silkworm"). It is said to be the inspiration for Mothra.[4]

The largest lepidopteran in terms of wingspan is thought to be the White Witch, Thysania agrippina. A record specimen of Attacus atlas from Java measured 262 mm, while Thysania are claimed to be about 270–280 mm (11 in). Based on some spread specimens and angle of wing, actual measurements of around 289 mm have been estimated.[5]

In India, Atlas moths are cultivated for their silk in a non-commercial capacity; unlike that produced by the related Silkworm moth (Bombyx mori), Atlas moth silk is secreted as broken strands. This brown, wool-like silk is thought to have greater durability and is known as fagara.[6] Atlas moth cocoons have been employed as purses in Taiwan.

Similar taxa[edit]

Rothschildia aurota, Neotropical relative of the Atlas moth

Close relatives and often mistaken for Atlas moths, members of the genus Rothschildia are the New World counterparts to the Old World genus Attacus.

Very similar in appearance, Rothschildia aurota is one of the largest members of its genus and a close Neotropical relative of the Asian Atlas moth.

Life cycle[edit]

Holometabolism
Atlas Moth EGGS.jpg Attacus atlas cat.jpg Attacus atlas-botanical-garden-of-bern 10.jpg EMEMRGING MOTH.jpg Attacus atlas London Zoo 01118-2.jpg
Eggs Caterpillar Pupa Imago emerging from Pupa Fully Grown

Attraction[edit]

Females are sexually passive, releasing powerful pheromones which males detect and home in on with the help of chemoreceptors located on their large feathery antennae. Males may thus be attracted from several kilometres downwind.[7] Atlas moths are unsteady fliers, and the female does not stray far from the location of her discarded chrysalis: she seeks a perch where the air currents will best carry her pheromones.

Larva[edit]

Once mated, the female lays a number of spherical eggs 2.5 mm in diameter on the undersides of leaves. Dusty-green caterpillars hatch after about two weeks and feed voraciously on the foliage of certain citrus and other evergreen trees.[8] The caterpillars are adorned with fleshy spines along their backs which are covered in a waxy white substance.

Pupa[edit]

After reaching a length of about 115 millimetres (4.5 in), the caterpillars pupate within papery cocoon interwoven into desiccated leaves. The adult moths emerge after about four weeks.

Habitat on Mount Kinabalu

Habitat[edit]

The habitat is primary Tropical and subtropical dry broadleaf forests and shrublands but secondary forest is also utilised.

References[edit]

Stamp featuring atlas moth
  1. ^ Holloway, J.D. (1987). The Moths of Borneo, part 3: Lasiocampidae, Eupteroptidae, Bombycidae, Brahmaeidae, Saturniidae, Sphingidae. Southdene Sdn. Bhd., Kuala Lumpur
  2. ^ Watson, A. & Whalley, P.E.S. (1983). The Dictionary of Butterflies and Moths in colour. Peerage Books, London, England. ISBN 0-907408-62-1
  3. ^ Yiu, V. (2006). Insecta Hongkongica. Hong Kong Discovery. Kowloon, Hong Kong. 655pp. ISBN 988-97173-9-5
  4. ^ Yoda, Hiroko (2013-01-14). "Okinawa: Which island is for you? | CNN Travel". Travel.cnn.com. Retrieved 2013-06-08. 
  5. ^ Hugo Kons, Jr. (1998-05-17). "Chapter 32 — Largest Lepidopteran Wing Span". Book of Insect Records. University of Florida. 
  6. ^ Jolly, M.S., Sen, S.K., Sonwalkar, T.N. & Prasad, G.S. (1979). Non-mulberry silks. Food & Agriculture Organisation. United Nations, Serv. Bull. 29. Rome. xvii + 178pp
  7. ^ Shepherd, G.M. (1994). "Chemical Senses". In Neurobiology 3rd Edition. Oxford University Press
  8. ^ Robinson, G.S., Ackery, P.R., Kitching, I.J., Beccaloni, G.W. & Hernández, L.M. (2001). Hostplants of the moth and butterfly caterpillars of the Oriental Region. Southdene Sdn. Bhd., Kuala Lumpur & The Natural History Museum, London. 744 pp. ISBN 983-40053-3-4

External links[edit]