ANTHELINAE, ANTHELIDAE, BOMBYCOIDEA
Ken Fairey & Stella Crossley
The genus Pterolocera is unique to Australia. Eight species in this genus have been described and named so far:
It is thought that there may be many more species in this genus that so far are undescribed and unnamed.
The females of some species in this genus are flightless, so the spread of these species each year is limited by how far the caterpillars and the females of each generation can walk. The precursors to the genus are thought to have arrived maybe 100,000 years ago probably on the west coast of Australia. So the members of Pterolocera have been slowly walking across Australia in that time, and speciating by genetic drift maybe every 200 Km or so as they went. So now there is a patchwork of maybe 50 species across Australia.
Sadly the caterpillars in this genus generally feed on Australian native grasses, which are being replaced by foreign grasses as stockmen "improve" their properties.
Also the caterpillars feed in winter, and burrow underground to pupate in spring, spending the summer underground. This is probably an adaptation to avoid summer bush-fires. Sadly the human process of burning off in winter to avoid summer bush-fires kills the caterpillars.
Hence: many Pterolocera species are becoming extinct before we even have specimens of them to study. All rather sad.
Kenneth David Fairey,
Distribution and speciation of the genus Pterolocera (Lepidoptera : Anthelidae) in south eastern Australia,
Msc Thesis, Macquarie University,
(written 23 October 2016, updated 10 December 2018, 12 May 2019, 7 March 2022)