Urania sloanus

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Sloane’s urania
Zoological Illustrations Volume III Series 2 129.jpg
1829 illustration of the now extinct Urania sloanus; Zoological illustrations, Volume 3, 2nd series by William Swainson
Extinct  (ca. 1894-1908)
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Arthropoda
Class: Insecta
Order: Lepidoptera
Family: Uraniidae
Subfamily: Uraniinae
Genus: Urania
Species: U. sloanus
Binomial name
Urania sloanus
(Cramer, 1776)
Former range in red (Jamaica)

Papilio sloanus (original combination)
Cydimon sloanus
Leilus occidentalis

Urania sloanus (Sloane's urania) was a moth of the Uraniidae family endemic to Jamaica. It was last reported in 1894 or 1895,[1] but possibly surviving until at least 1908.[2][3]

The specific epithet sloanus honours Sir Hans Sloane (1660–1753),[3][4] an English collector whose collection became the foundation of the British Museum.


This extinct Urania species was black with iridescent red, blue and green markings. The iridescent parts of the wings do not have pigment; as determined by optical analysis on the species Urania fulgens belonging to the same genus,[5] the color originates from refraction of light by the ribbon-like scales covering the moth's wings.

Urania sloanus is considered "the most spectacular Urania species".[1] As most species of the subfamily Uraniinae, it was a day flying moth while most moths are active at night; its bright colors advertised, as a warning, the fact that it was also toxic.

Urania sloanus as illustrated in "A Handbook to the Order Lepidoptera" by W. F. Kirby.
Illustration from Plate LXXXV of Cramer & Stoll's "De uitlandsche kapellen: voorkomende in de drie waereld-deelen Asia, Africa en America", Part 1.


Based on current knowledge of extant uraniine species, it is likely that Sloane's urania migrated between patches of host plants, after population explosions locally defoliated them. This probably required relatively large, intact areas of lowland forest.[3][6]

Habitat loss when Jamaica's lowland rainforests were cleared and converted to agricultural land during the colonial era may have contributed to its extinction, although large parts of primary forest still remain. Thus, the more probable answer to its extinction would be that the moth population "crashed below a sustainable level, perhaps a victim of loss of one of its larval foodplants" such as the toxic Omphalea triandra L. and O. diandra. Like other members of the genus Urania, periodic swarms of moths were separated by years of great scarcity.[1][3]


  1. ^ a b c Lees, D.C. & Smith, N.G. (1991) "Foodplants of the Uraniinae (Uraniinae) and their Systematic, Evolutionary and Ecological Significance." Journal of the Lepidopterists' Society 45: 297-347 Retrieved August 3, 2015.
  2. ^ Vinciguerra, R. 2009. Osservazioni su Urania sloanus (Cramer, 1779) (Lepidoptera: Uraniidae). SHILAP Revista lepidopterologica, 37 (147): 1-6"
  3. ^ a b c d Lees, D.C., 2010 Urania sloanus In Natural History Museum Species of the Day, 16.04.2010
  4. ^ The Century Dictionary by The Century Company.Available online.
  5. ^ Prum,R.O. Quinn T. and Torres, R.H. 2006. Anatomically diverse butterfly scales all produce structural colours by coherent scattering. The Journal of Experimental Biology 209, 748-765 doi:10.1242/jeb.02051 [available at http://jeb.biologists.org/cgi/reprint/209/4/748.pdf]
  6. ^ (2004) Urania sloanus in The Titian Peale Butterfly and Moth Collection of The Academy of Natural Sciences. Retrieved October 6, 2007.

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