A Rare Moth is Found in Chile - Observation of the Week, 2/10/19

Our Observation of the Week is this Andeabatis chilensis moth, seen in Chile by bernardo_segura!

Last week, Frank Izaguirre (@birdizlife) messaged me, writing “Tony, check this one out. It just showed up on my feed! So beautiful, even kinda trippy, and a first for iNat,” and directing me to Bernardo Segura’s photos of the insane moth you see above. So it was chosen as Observation of the Day and got a lot of love on social media, including this great comment on Facebook: "The seventies called. They want their wings back!”

What was really cool is that not only did a user who was mostly interested in birds fall in love with this moth, but John Grehan (@johngrehan), a specialist in swift moths (aka ghost moths), of which this species is a member. John and Bernardo connected, and Bernardo will (fingers crossed) attempt to collect some specimens for John in the hopes of collaborating on an article.

“[This find] illustrates the value of iNaturalist in the way it can alert specialists about new species or new opportunities with known species,” says John. “I have an automatic link for new notifications on Hepialidae and this has contributed to at least two publications. And where new species are suspected it is possible to get in touch with the photographer to see if specimens may be obtained in the future.” He says this last part is critical and would like to encourage observers to try and get a specimen if a specialist ask for one and if local rules allow it. John notes that this species is the only known member of its genus, and that those black tips on the gold scales (see below) are “unique to this species as far as currently known.”

So how did Bernardo come across this moth? Well, unlike many moth finds, he heard it first:

Two years ago I was in the beautiful Alerce Costero national park in the rain forests of southern Chile, taking photos of some frogs at night when I saw a big fluffy thing moving in some branches close to me. It was big as a fist and very loud in its movement so at first I thought it was some small mammal like the Colocolo opossum (Dromiciops gliroides) but when I pointed my headlamp towards it I realized that it was a huge moth moving clumsily in the branches, a moth of a species that I have only seen photos of before and was hoping to see sometime, the incredible and kind of mythological to me Andeabatis chilensis.

“Details of biology are poorly or entirely unknown for most ghost moth species,” says John. However, what we know about them is fascinating. Eggs are generally dropped on the ground and “newly hatched larvae of many (all?) species feed on dead plant detritus or fungi before transitioning to live plants.” And when consuming live plant material, many larvae remain on their own, “living in tunnels made of silk and debris or bore into soil or host plants. Most are probably root feeders.“ Adults, like the one Bernardo photographed, lack functioning mouth parts, meaning they often live for no more than a single night - so he was lucky to have found this one!

Bernardo (above), who has a masters in wildlife conservation, says he has “been passionate about nature since I can remember. Always a curious boy enjoying watching bugs and others animals mainly in the Chilean Andes, now I try to immortalize those marvelous findings through photography and to share them to everyone.” He works with a variety of organisms, “from the most understudied and unknown velvet worms to the charismatic wild cats of the Andes.

I’m just starting to use INaturalist and I believe it’s a great way in which everyone can help to improve the knowledge of  species, I’m now uploading years of finding, starting from interesting and understudied animals like Andeabatis chilensis.

- by Tony Iwane. Some quotes have been lightly edited for clarity. Many thanks to Bernardo, John, and Frank.

- Check out Bernardo’s Facebook page and Flickr gallery, as well as John’s site!

- Not only did Bernardo take some sweet photos of the moth, he also shot really nice video of it as well!

- Here are links to two of the papers John was involved in, which cited several iNaturalist observations.

Posted by tiwane tiwane, February 11, 2019 06:52


Fantastic capture Bernardo. A unique treat for us all! Thank you for sharing.

Posted by johnguerin over 2 years ago (Flag)

Great find: this is very reminiscent our our southern African Leto venus!

Posted by tonyrebelo over 2 years ago (Flag)

Gorgeous moth and gorgeous photo! Now I'm really itching for warmer temps and some good mothing :)

Posted by mira_l_b over 2 years ago (Flag)

Wonderful story. Beautiful moth. It’s a shame that such a large and charismatic moth lacks any common vernaculars. (Probably a consequence of its rarity.) Personally, I’m in favor of “Chilean Disco Ghost”.

Posted by bobby23 over 2 years ago (Flag)

Great work and great photo. Seems a shame such a large intricately marked moth only lives a day.....

Posted by knysna_wildflowers over 2 years ago (Flag)

Wonderful shot of this beautiful rare species! Thanks for sharing!

Posted by catenatus over 2 years ago (Flag)


Posted by katharinab over 2 years ago (Flag)

It is so nice to hear how inat is making a difference with all the observations that are loaded. Whether is is rare or common, it is great to see and share with others.

Posted by butterflies4fun over 2 years ago (Flag)

Congratulations, Bernardo, for a great find and lovely photo.

Posted by pam-piombino over 2 years ago (Flag)

Congratulations Bernardo! It is very few that scientists in Chile know about this moth, so beautiful and almost impossible to find! Thank you for sharing your exiting discover!

Posted by hualo over 2 years ago (Flag)

What a beautiful photo! I just remembered I've seen this species back in 2015, on a field trip as a field assistant to study Torrent Ducks (Merganetta armata) in Nahuel Huapi National Park, Argentina. The specimen I found was very weak, so I presume it was dying (it was in the afternoon). I will upload my photos as soon as I find them, now that I know what is it's name! :) Thanks for sharing this.

Posted by michelledelaloye over 2 years ago (Flag)

If I should ever grow wings, I want wings that look like this!

Posted by susanhewitt over 2 years ago (Flag)

Most fantastic! What a great find and photograph.

Posted by lonnyholmes over 2 years ago (Flag)

I just viewed your flickr photos. You are very accomplished and have a great eye for both the subject and composition. Well done! Please keep posting on flickr and iN.

Posted by pam-piombino over 2 years ago (Flag)

Wow -- way cool! Thanks for sharing this observation. :)

Posted by sambiology over 2 years ago (Flag)

What a beautiful moth!! Thank you for sharing!!

Posted by sunnetchan over 2 years ago (Flag)

This is a great find. Chile has been my dream destination for years. Hopefully I'll get there one day.

Posted by sonorabee over 2 years ago (Flag)

All I can say is....WOW!!!!!!

Posted by birdgal5 over 2 years ago (Flag)

Beautiful moth! Keep up the good work Bernardo!

Posted by pufferchung over 2 years ago (Flag)

Wow so beautiful....

Posted by cherylmacaulay over 2 years ago (Flag)

Wow, fantastic! Beautiful captures of this stunning moth.

Posted by annikaml over 2 years ago (Flag)

Blown away by the picture ... but then I started reading the text, and of course, it wasn't long until the idea of "collecting" raised its ugly head. It would be wonderful to think that one day humans will gain proper respect for nature and all the millions of species that we share this planet with, but sadly that is not yet happening, not even with scientists and naturalists who profess a genuine love and wonder for these same species, but still choose to kill.

Posted by paul_prior over 2 years ago (Flag)

Thank you for sharing this wonderful observation and for taking the time to contribute to science and our understanding of the natural world which will help us to protect it for future generations.

Posted by milliebasden over 2 years ago (Flag)

Wow what an absolutely fabulous moth.

Posted by lizcutting over 2 years ago (Flag)

Beautiful photo! Such a cool looking Moth. Kudos to you!

Posted by walkingstick2 over 2 years ago (Flag)

There are no words to describe such beauty. How lucky you are, and how lucky we are all of us who, through your eyes, have been able to meet this wonderful moth! Thank you Bernardo! Thank you Andeabatis chilensis!

Posted by alessandradalia over 2 years ago (Flag)

Very nice find! Thanks for sharing!

Posted by ken-potter over 2 years ago (Flag)

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