Dr KARL SHUKER

Zoologist, media consultant, and science writer, Dr Karl Shuker is also one of the best known cryptozoologists in the world. Author of such seminal works as Mystery Cats of the World (1989), The Lost Ark: New and Rediscovered Animals of the 20th Century (1993; greatly expanded in 2012 as The Encyclopaedia of New and Rediscovered Animals), In Search of Prehistoric Survivors (1995), and more recently Extraordinary Animals Revisited (2007), Dr Shuker's Casebook (2008), Karl Shuker's Alien Zoo: From the Pages of Fortean Times (2010), Cats of Magic, Mythology, and Mystery (2012), and Mirabilis: A Carnival of Cryptozoology and Unnatural History (2013), his many fans have been badgering him to join the blogosphere for years. The CFZ Blog Network is proud to have finally persuaded him to do so.

ShukerNature - http://www.karlshuker.blogspot.com

Dr Karl Shuker's Official Website - http://www.karlshuker.com

IMPORTANT: To view a complete, regularly-updated listing of my ShukerNature blog's articles (each one instantly clickable), please click HERE!

IMPORTANT: To view a complete, regularly-updated listing of my Eclectarium blog's articles (each one instantly clickable), please click HERE!

IMPORTANT: To view a complete, regularly-updated listing of my Starsteeds blog's poetry and other lyrical writings (each one instantly clickable), please click HERE!

Search This Blog

Loading...

Wednesday, 22 August 2012

MYSTERY OF THE VENEZUELAN POODLE MOTH - HAVE YOU SEEN THIS INSECT??

A furry mystery – the 'Venezuelan poodle moth' (© Dr Arthur Anker, aka artour_a/Flickr)


As cryptozoology enthusiasts will readily testify, just a few weeks ago the internet was awash with dazzling but highly deceptive photographs of black lions. Now, the latest animal photo to beguile and bewilder everyone online is this one.

On 21 August 2012, Facebook friend David Laslett drew my attention to the eyecatching and exceedingly interesting photograph opening this present ShukerNature blog post. He explained that the photo had lately appeared all over the internet, and was labelled as 'the Venezuelan poodle moth'. Yet in spite of this insect's memorable name and very unusual appearance, and although he had spent a considerable time online attempting to identify it, David had not been able to find out anything whatsoever concerning it, not even its scientific name – only ever more copies of this same photograph and the same name applied to its furry-limbed, white-winged subject.

Greatly intrigued, David asked me if I knew this moth's species and whether I could trace any information regarding it. And so, without further ado, and as Sherlock Holmes might well have said in such a situation, the game was afoot!

I love a challenge!!

It was a species that I'd never seen before, so I spent quite a time researching its photograph, its name, and its supposed provenance (Venezuela) online, but, just as David had reported, nothing! The photo had appeared on many websites recently, but with no additional details. Consequently, as someone who has exposed various hoax wildlife photographs in the past, such as those purportedly depicting genuine black lions (click here to see my investigation of those) and multi-headed cobras (click here for my investigation of those), I naturally began to wonder whether the poodle moth was the Photoshopped creation of a poodle-faker!

Larvae of the poodle moth?!! A pair of delightful dogerpillars, courtesy of Photoshop

Happily, however, I was proven wrong, because eventually I traced the photographer responsible for this enigmatic snapshot, and discovered that he was a bona fide zoologist called Dr Arthur Anker (or Art for short), from Bishkek in Kyrgyzstan, who had snapped this picture plus many additional (and equally breathtaking) photographs of Venezuelan insects and other wildlife while visiting Venezuela during the winter of 2008/9.

These photographs formed just one set of numerous spectacular images that Art has taken while visiting tropical rainforests and other exotic locations worldwide, and which he has placed in photosets on the Flickr website (his Flickr user name is artour_a).

His poodle moth photograph was snapped on 1 January 2009, and appears in his 'Venezuelan Gran Sabana' photoset (click here) and also in his 'Neotropical Moths' photoset (click here). However, he had not included a scientific name for it, merely 'Poodle moth, Venezuela', together with details of the camera and photo-settings used when taking this particular macro-photograph. These were: NIKON E8700, f/6.6, 1/4000 sec, 27.3mm, ISO 50.

When I emailed Art to ask if he knew this moth's species, he informed me that he did not, and he also revealed that no other zoologist he'd spoken to knew either. Indeed, no-one had even been able to name its genus! As for its common name, conversely, Art informed me that it was he who had thought up the apt and very memorable name of 'poodle moth' for it.

An 1853 engraving of tiger moths - familiar members of the family Arctiidae (Pierre Auguste Joseph Drapiez)

Conducting some more internet searches regarding this moth, which by now had seriously begun to fascinate and frustrate me in equal measure, I came upon a few sites claiming that it was actually the muslin moth Diaphora mendica, a member of the lepidopteran family Arctiidae, which also houses the familiar tiger moths and ermine moths. There are even photos of the muslin moth online that have been labelled as poodle moths. Yet although the muslin moth bears a superficial similarity to the poodle moth, it is less furry and, in any case, is exclusively Palaearctic in distribution.

One photo in particular that has been copied on a number of websites and labelled as the Venezuelan poodle moth is this one:

Muslin moth Diaphora mendica (© DrPhotoMoto/Flickr)

Happily, however, its original photographer, whose Flickr name is DrPhotoMoto, included within its description its species' correct identification as D. mendica (though he did also dub it as both the muslin moth and the poodle moth), and he noted that it had been snapped by him on 20 May 2009 in Richmond County, North Carolina.

But could Art's Venezuelan poodle moth be a related, Neotropical species? In fact, there are over 6000 Neotropical species within Arctiidae, so this is certainly a plausible possibility.

Nevertheless, here is where the trail goes cold, as I have been unable to uncover any further information appertaining to Venezuela's very perplexing little lepidopteran.

So: Do you know its scientific name, or at least the genus in which it belongs? Is it indeed a member of Arctiidae, or are its taxonomic affinities elsewhere? Could it even be a species still undescribed by science? Thousands of new insects are discovered every year in the South American rainforests, so it would be by no means unusual if Art's Venezuelan poodle moth proved to be one too.

If anyone can shed any light on the identity of this charming mystery moth, I'd love to hear from you. I will also pass on any details to Art, who has very kindly permitted me to prepare this ShukerNature blog post and include his singularly intriguing photograph in it – thanks, Art!

Another photograph of Diaphora mendica, the muslin moth (© entomart/Wikipedia)


UPDATE: 28 August 2012

Since I posted this ShukerNature article documenting my investigation of it, the Venezuelan poodle moth has gone viral! Countless websites have reported it, and yesterday the following GrindTV Blog report, containing reference to mine, was majored by Yahoo:

http://www.grindtv.com/outdoor/blog/34608/moth+that+looks+like+a+poodle+has+internet+abuzz+bizarre+photos/?fb_action_ids=4541382020406&fb_action_types=og.recommends&fb_source=aggregation&fb_aggregation_id=288381481237582

And today, again containing reference to my ShukerNature article, the following online report was posted by NBC News!

http://cosmiclog.nbcnews.com/_news/2012/08/27/13510167-bizarre-poodle-moth-fascinates-and-frightens-the-masses-online?lite

Suddenly, this furry little insect has become one of the cutest critters on the planet!

Not only that, however, but at last we have a clearer idea of its taxonomic affinities, thanks to the following highly informative email that I received a few hours ago from Dr John E. Rawlins, Curator and Chair, Section of Invertebrate Zoology, Assistant Director of Research and Collections, Carnegie Museum of Natural History in Pittsburgh, USA, and which Dr Rawlins has very kindly permitted me to include here:

"Here’s my vote/guess to ID the poodle moth. The antenna is distinctive.

Lasiocampidae: Artace or a related genus, probably not Artace cribraria (presumably North America to Argentina, but nobody has revised this group from Mexico south). There are more than a dozen described South American species of Artace, but their delimitation, validity, and even their generic placement is uncertain. It will take two things to solve this problem: a comprehensive revision of Artace and kin, plus an actual specimen of a genuine “Venezuelan poodle moth.”

Definitely NOT Lymantriidae or Arctiidae, but easily confused with some Megalopygidae, Limacodidae, even Dalceridae, and Cossidae.

Yes….it is cute.

Good luck, Karl, and have fun!"

Lasiocampidae contains the eggar or lappet moths, and includes such familiar and beautiful species as the oak eggar Lasiocampa quercus (native to the UK and continental Europe), and the dot-lined white Artace cribraria noted above by Dr Rawlins. They are also commonly termed snout moths, as in some species their unusually protuberant mouthparts can resemble a snout.

Oak eggar

Of course, as Dr Rawlins stressed in a second email to me today, the question of the poodle moth's specific identity remains tentative until a specimen can be obtained to examine or, better still, a living moth to observe. This is something, incidentally, that I have pointed out on numerous occasions and to numerous persons in relation to cryptozoology - without a physical specimen to study, it is both impossible and, quite frankly, ridiculous to attempt to classify or state with certainty what a cryptid is; we can only ever offer opinions as to what it may be.

Dr Rawlins also made some very pertinent, illuminating comments concerning why discovering the taxonomic identity of the Venezuelan poodle moth is so important, and which definitely bear repeating here:

"No problem, Karl; use information from me to do more of what you have been doing well - to increase an appreciation for biodiversity. It does matter what species of poodle moth this is!! If you thought the moth was cute, wait until you rear your first caterpillar!!!...You are doing good things in our world - keep doing them."

Thank you, Dr Rawlins! I shall definitely continue to do so!

The dot-lined white (al-ien/Flickr; and click here for more images of this species)


51 comments:

  1. http://browse.deviantart.com/?qh=&section=&q=moth+existential+fears#/dm1q2b

    Reminds me of this one.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Hi Tim,
    Yes, there are similarities, but if the photo in your link has not been recolourised, the 'fur' and wings of its moth, by being yellow-gold, do not match the snowy white fur of the poodle moth.
    But thanks for bringing it to my attention - I'll look into this one too.
    All the best, Karl

    ReplyDelete
  3. Karl the pic immediately under the title of this piece looks like something the marketing department of the owners of Mothra've come up with to maximise their merchandising possibilities.

    It's so cute yet it looks almost like a guy in a suit crouching down waiting to be called onto the set.

    ReplyDelete
  4. lol Alan, yes I see your point. But no, it really is a totally genuine moth, as my investigation of its photo here has revealed. It's just a question now of finding out its species - always assuming that it has already been named and described. All the best, Karl

    ReplyDelete
  5. Ever since Hugo Chavez took over the country, thousands of Venezuelan poodle moths have suffered in Venezualen caterpillar mills . The sudden riches experienced in country since the discovery of oil in that nation has led to a high demand for the poodle moth. Owning one is considered a sign of wealth and good taste. What a lot of wanna be poodle moth owners don't take into account is that poodle moths are hard to take care of, and after finding a moth eaten wardrobe after coming home from a day at work in the oil fields, a lot of uncaring owners will simply abandon their poodle moth in the garment districts of Venezuelan cities, where they think that the poor insect will be able to fend for themselves, and that they will have "plenty to eat".
    If this sort of behavior bothers you, like it does me, please join me in writing to our elected leaders to put pressure on Venezuela to enact laws against this barbaric behavior.

    ReplyDelete
  6. one of those rare cases when reality is as amazing as the merely conjectured. Even a Bigfoot would have to be amused by the poodle moth. It almost appears to have a snout and a mouth - a very 3-dimensional face on a moth is definitely a surprise.

    ReplyDelete
  7. It may just be a lucky snap of a mutation like people who have thick hair all over their faces.

    ReplyDelete
  8. Here ya' go folks. This is a WEIRD looking moth/insect/whatever, that took up residence on the balcony of our villa while on vacation in Punta Cana, D.R. in January. Note the different "color patterns". I say that because it is the SAME one in all three (3) shots. The thing was HUGE!! Probably about 4-5 inches from wing tip to wing tip, and about the same from head to "tail"!! Any idea(s) what it is?!?!

    http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v231/crackinwax/bug1.jpg

    http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v231/crackinwax/bug2.jpg

    http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v231/crackinwax/bug3.jpg

    ReplyDelete
  9. Jennifer Priest27 August 2012 17:16

    Dr Karl, what is the actual size of the poodle moth? I think we may have seen them over the past couple of years here in Ohio. Very cool insect though.

    ReplyDelete
  10. Mine's cuter! ;)

    http://www.flickr.com/photos/benroffelsen/sets/72157631018719094/

    ReplyDelete
  11. @Anonymous 27 Aug- it's definitely a hawk moth (Sphingiidae). I thought at first from its general size and colour that it was the oleander hawk moth, but yours seems too dark a green for that species. I'll check it out and post details if I track it down.

    @Jennifer - No size details given, unfortunately.

    @Ben - Your moth is definitely cute too! lol

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. LOL! Awesome photo ;) Great moth. So many variations of moths out there. I saw one the other day that had so many colours, almost neon. I tried to capture it so I could document it.

      Delete
  12. @Anonymous - Your moth is Eumorpha labruscae, the gaudy hawk moth or (in America) the gaudy sphinx, found in parts of southern USA and the Caribbean, including the Dominican Republic. Here is a link to more info regarding it, though the image in it is of a faded preserved specimen. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eumorpha_labruscae

    I also have found much darker ones online, like yours, such as this one: http://www.whatsthatbug.com/2008/09/13/gaudy-sphinx-15/

    Hope this helps. All the best, Karl

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Good stuff Doctor! Admittedly, I only did "a little bit" of research on it upon our arrival back home. Posted to Facebook, and asked a few internet folk if they could identify it, to no avail.

      ...And so solves the mystery of the HUGE, GREEN "THINGY" that took part in our family vacation! *wink*

      Thanks!!

      P.S. In person, this thing is REALLY cool & interesting!! To say the least!

      Delete
  13. It's Godzilla,s Revenge of Mothra!! I have to show these cool moths to grandchikdren, they will love them.

    ReplyDelete
  14. looks like my sister ;D

    ReplyDelete
  15. @Anonymous re holiday moth - My pleasure!

    ReplyDelete
  16. Looks like Mothra mated with an Ewok

    ReplyDelete
  17. Tussock moth. Family: Lymantriidae. See http://bit.ly/NWVivG and http://bit.ly/O1Z5KL

    ReplyDelete
  18. Thanks for these links, but unfortunately they don't match the poodle moth, especially the first, which has red leg segments that the poodle moth doesn't have. The second one is a closer match, but the grey colour doesn't match the poodle moth's white fur.

    ReplyDelete
  19. You are a new favorite of mine! I just even like saying cryptozoologist. Plus, I have a cockapoo that could be this moth's cousin.

    ReplyDelete
  20. That is to say it is a kind of tussock moth; there are 2500 known species. As for the particular species, that has yet to be determined. Tussocks occur in Venezuala. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lymantriidae

    ReplyDelete
  21. Perhaps another contender: Lasiocampidae, more specifically Artace cribrarius http://bugguide.net/node/view/4295

    ReplyDelete
  22. Yes, I know, but in overall morphology it seems closer to an arctiid than a lymantriid. I considered the latter in detail before settling upon an arctiid as a closer match. Then again, there may be a lymantriid species out there still awaiting discovery that does closely resemble an arctiid. Mimicry or convergent evolution occurs so widely in insects, many things are possible. All the best, Karl

    ReplyDelete
  23. That lasiocampid is certainly similar, but is only found in North America. Perhaps the poodle moth is a related Venezuelan species? Thanks for showing this to me!

    ReplyDelete
  24. Does the 'Venezuelan poodle moth' bite?
    It looks like it could be a pet... lol

    ReplyDelete
  25. No, I wouldn't think so. Only a very few moths do this, using their proboscis to puncture the skin in order to suck blood, the so-called vampire moths of Asia. But they belong to a very different family.

    ReplyDelete
  26. I saw you in the mainstream news today! I was so excited to see a news article about a blog post I had already read. :) http://cosmiclog.nbcnews.com/_news/2012/08/27/13510167-bizarre-poodle-moth-fascinates-and-frightens-the-masses-online

    ReplyDelete
  27. Well, it's nice to see my second guess has some agreement. Enjoyable challenge none the less for this amateur. Thank you for posting and responding.

    ReplyDelete
  28. My pleasure - thanks very much for your input!

    ReplyDelete
  29. You shure it's not an Artace cribraria?

    Looks so much like this one here: http://www.flickr.com/photos/justguessing/1572655981/

    And here:
    http://www.flickr.com/photos/modofrodo/2999957435/

    Just check the flabellate(?) antenna...

    And one more:
    http://animalworld.tumblr.com/post/6970121778/dot-line-white-moth-artace-cribraria-c-modo-frodos

    ReplyDelete
  30. I was wondering if it could be in the Notodontidae family? http://ukmoths.org.uk/systematic.php#Notodontinae

    ReplyDelete
  31. It IS member of Notodontidae. Antennae like that occur only in members of this family and in Cossidae.

    ReplyDelete
  32. Amazing how simple it can be to communicate with people and have them understand a certain topic, you made my day.

    jack

    ReplyDelete
  33. Hello. I am DrPhotoMoto. I am a doctor of medicine and chemistry but not entymology. I titled my moth photograph Poodle Moth because I didn't know its scientific name and it reminded me of a poodle. I think it is fairly obvious that I am not the only one to notice the resemblance. Soon after posting my shot a flickr viewer suggested that this moth might be diaphora mendica and I was most grateful for this information. I am not an entomologist and have not been able to confirm this identification. For example this species is not mentioned in bugguide.net. Wikepedia states that this species is found in the Palearctic ecozone which does not include any part of North America. I do see a lot of tussock caterpillars in my area. Oh well! Glad my photograph stirred up some interest in entomology of which I am an avid amateur. John Flannery/DrPhotoMoto

    ReplyDelete
  34. I think the "poodle moth" looks a lot like this one, which seems to be found in Mexico too: http://bugguide.net/node/view/169297 .

    ReplyDelete
  35. Pretty sure this is a silkworm moth (Bombyx mori) I knew a girl who fed silkworms to her bearded dragon and it wasn't uncommon to see one of these in her house

    ReplyDelete
  36. Unfortunately, it can't be any species of Bombyx, because they are excluisvely Old World species, whereas this poodle moth is Venezuelan.

    ReplyDelete
  37. очаровательный мотылек, жаль ничего про него не нашла =(

    ReplyDelete
  38. Yes indeed, it is a charming little insect, and a pity that he hasn't seen another one since, but perhaps he will do so one day. Thanks for your comment!

    ReplyDelete
  39. Good work! Cheers

    ReplyDelete
  40. They look very much like the Striders on the Dark Crystal.

    ReplyDelete
  41. Hi John Flannery, Thanks so much for the additional information concerning your photographed moth, which I am very pleased to receive here. All the best, Karl

    ReplyDelete
  42. What size is the "poodle moth" ( if this is it's name) in the top photo here?

    ReplyDelete
  43. Hello Karl we are researching are furry little friend because on Wednesday Oct, 16 2013 my 13 year old daughter had a tiny blue one on her hand similar to this one and she said, "it's so cute!" I am saying what the hell is it? She said, they are all over Bedford, MA. The game is afoot!

    ReplyDelete
  44. I've seen it on facebook. Look for the name of The Amazing Wild Nature. And then, scroll down until you see a picture of a poodle moth. Or I can just send you the link./www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=447604778700731&set=a.299425643518646.1073741828.299413426853201&type=1&theater.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Sorry, but the 'moth' in that photograph is not real, it is a fake moth made out of felt, as confirmed in this website: http://m.tickld.com/pic/t/171054

      Delete