Saturday, June 02, 2007

Wonders of evolution: Antheraea Polyphemus

So many things in this world make me wonder at the power and grandeur of evolution. How's this: polyphemus moths are about 5 or 6 inches across. They don't eat or drink as adults (only as caterpillars) -- they don't even have mouth parts. Their entire purpose as adults is to reproduce. Toward that end, the female (first picture below) emits pheremones to attract males, which may fly in from over a mile away when they catch the pheremones on their antennae. To top it all off, they have these amazing markings featuring translucent patches in the middle of their eyespots. When they're not flashing their protective markings they look a lot like dead leaves.

Matt brought home the cocoon of the female pictured above last winter. We were starting to lose hope that anything was going to hatch out of it, when we discovered this beauty one morning. That night, we left her on our porch in an aquarium. When we woke up the next morning, these two males were trying to get in through the screen and a third fell on us as we were investigating the scene. We let them in the aquarium so they could do their thing.

Check out the antennae on this guy!

Soon the female started to lay eggs. We never saw any mating, so we're not positive the eggs will be fertile. Only time will tell -- if we have babies you can be sure you'll see them here.