A rare species of moth, Indian Owlet moth  (Spirama retorta) belonging to the Erebidae family was spotted at the foothills of the Pachamalai hills in Tamil Nadu. Additionally, a species of butterfly , Common banded peacock (Papilio crino) was also seen at the Puliyancholai hills at the base of the Kolli hills by ecologists from Tiruchirapalli. These species are usually found in other states of the country and have been reported to be seen for the first time in the southern Indian state.


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The discovery was made by Ashoka Chakkaravarthy, ecologist and assistant professor of Environmental Science, Department of Foundation Courses, St. Joseph’s College, and his student K. Arunagiri. The moth species that is usually found in north-eastern India, Maharashtra, Himachal Pradesh, and Madhya Pradesh was spotted by them in these regions in late February.

The moth’s wings (spanning 60-70 mm) bear a striking pattern that often looks like the face of a snake with slightly opened mouth, intended perhaps as a means to quickly fight off predators (known as Deimatic behaviour).

Owlet moths are one of the largest families of Lepidoptera Order which comprises more than 35,000 known species placed in 29 sub-families and 4,200 genera.

“Most moths in India are not yet identified properly. The lifespan of this moth is 36 or 37 days,” Mr. Chakkravarthy said.

Image via butterflycorner.net

A species of butterfly, the Common Banded Peacock (Papilio crino) was also tracked by the ecologist in Puliyancholai, at the base of the Kolli Hills.

“(Puliyancholai) is a haven for butterflies because of the steady flow of water throughout the year in this unique ecosystem,” said Mr. Chakkravarthy.

The area is rich in butterflies. Commonly spotted are blue butterfly species such as zebra blue, common albatross, and common gull after the monsoons. The ecologist has recorded more than 20 species of butterflies so far.

The Common Banded Peacock, which has a wing span of 8 to 100 mm, was spotted while it was “mud-puddling” — sucking up moisture from rotting plant matter, mud, and carrion.

Apart from its shiny blue or green colouring, the tips of its hind wings are distinguished by markings that look like eye spots.

This species belongs to Papilionidae family and can be seen in southern Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh, Odisha, and West Bengal.

It may be noted that a rare Indian moon moth species was also spotted in the same region last December.

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About Ramya Naresh

Ramya is a homemaker who likes to live in harmony with Nature, believing that each form of life is a wonder in itself. She values living in the present and looks forward to each day in all its freshness. She is a Senior Writer with India's Endangered.

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