The Atavism

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Sunday Spinelessness - Crypsis Fail

[Hmm, it seems my clever idea to write up a bunch of Sunday Spinelessness articles and automate their appearance here was scuppered by my inability to actually read a calendar. I guess you can enjoy your spinlessness a day early this week...]

This is a male cabbage tree moth (Epiphryne verriculata) and he's not having a good day.

crypsis fail

Usually the cabbage tree moth is one of the nicest examples of cyrpsis, or camouflage, that you'll find. They spend their days sleeping among the dried up leaves on and around cabbage trees. As you can see they are perfectly adapted to that environment - right down to the occasional spot and stripes that extend across the body as well as the wings. For some reason this particular moth alighted, not on the abundant fallen leaves around the base of one of our cabbage tress but on the underside of a nice, bright green Montbretia leaf.

Though, for obvious reasons, you don't see the adult of the cabbage tree moth very often it occurs everywhere the cabbage tree does. The caterpillars, and the half eaten leaves that leave behind, are a good deal more conspicuous. Interestingly, despite their wide range there appears to be a degree of local adaptation in E. verriculata populations. When cabbage trees grown from seeds collected in the North and the South Island are cultivated together in the South Island caterpillars of the cabbage tree moth show a preference for the 'their' southern trees.

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Posted by David Winter 8:42 AM

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