Don Herbison-Evans (
Stella Crossley & John Moss
(Photo: courtesy of Neil Hewett, Cooper Creek Wilderness, North Queensland)
This spectacular larva is mainly brown or grey, with diagonal shading and thin wiggly white lines. There is a variable black, yellow, and red mark each side of the first abdominal sement.
The final abdominal segments are elongated with a big black mark outlined in white underneath. The legs and prolegs sometimes have red markings.
If molested, the caterpillar bends its head downwards beneath the raised front portion of its body, stretching the skin on its dorsum, revealing what appears to be a pair of large, blue-black 'eyes' and a double row of white teeth-like markings: a most remarkable effect which would be sufficient to startle any potential avian, reptilian or mammalian predator.
The caterpillar has a final instar that is about 12 cms long. The caterpillar feeds on vines from the plant family MENISPERMACEAE, such as :
As well as the spectacular appearance of the larva, the pupa is also similarly endowed, exhibiting what resembles transparent circumferential panels on every abdominal segment. It is difficult to imagine what function this serves, considerig the larva usually encloses itself in a thin silk cocoon, woven loosely into dead leaves on the ground.
The forewings are chocolate brown and leaf-shaped, with an irregular white mark near the middle. When at rest, the forewings cover the hindwings in a 'steep, peaked roof' shape, and the insect disappears from view; any potential predator seeing what appears only to be a dead leaf: a good example of leaf crypsis.
The hindwings have large pinkish-red central area. The expanded forewing size of the adult varies from 13 to 17 cms.
The insect occurs in rainforest from:
Several subspecies have been noted, including :
The moths feed on the juice of fruit that has been damaged in some way, although they do not damage fruit themselves as they do not have the saw-like proboscis found in other genera of CATOCALINAE.
Further reading :
Ian F.B. Common,
Moths of Australia, Melbourne University Press, 1990, pl. 21.8, p. 454.
Don P.A. Sands,
Conservation Status of Lepidoptera, assessment , threatening processes and recovery action, The Other 99%. The Conservation and Biodiversity of Invertebrates, Transactions of the Royal Zoological Society of NSW, 1999, pp. 388-393.
Paul Zborowski and Ted Edwards,
A Guide to Australian Moths, CSIRO Publishing, 2007, p. 15.
(updated 1 April 2011)