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Moths of the Amazon and Andes
Buddha moth
Siculodes aurorula  GUENÉE, 1858

Superfamily - THYRIDOIDEA

Family - THYRIDIDAE

subfamily - SICULODINAE

Tribe - SICULODINI

Siculodes aurorula, Arima valley, Trinidad © Adrian Hoskins

Introduction
There can be few butterflies or moths as weird as this creature which I discovered in the rainforests of Trinidad. While walking along a trail my attention was caught by what appeared to be a dead leaf that seemed to have fallen and landed on a broad green leaf. A spider appeared to be squatting in the middle of the dead leaf but somehow it all looked a bit too symmetrical.
Upon closer examination I realised that the 'dead leaf' was in fact a moth, and that the 'spider' was its body and legs. It adopted a bizarre Buddha-like posture, with its body propped up vertically by its long stilt-like legs, and its wings outstretched like a bat. This wonder of the natural world moth had a strange mesmerising effect on me. It is an incredible example of camouflage - perfectly disguised as a dead leaf, complete with transparent windows that simulate the nibblings of insects, and dark blotches that could easily be mistaken for leaf mould.
For several years I was completely mystified by the insect, but it was eventually identified by Mike Shaffer of the British Natural History Museum as Siculodes aurorula, a member of the Thyrididae.
This specimen was the first ever recorded in Trinidad.
My photograph of the living moth finally revealed the purpose of its incredibly long legs. These had long puzzled entomologists who had studied the museum specimen. The moth needed them so that it could prop itself up in this very odd upright posture. The pose is almost threatening. Why would a moth evolve such a strange posture? Perhaps when viewed from the front it might appear so scary that it would frighten off a small avian or reptilian predator? Perhaps it simply needs to raise itself clear of the substrate to avoid getting stuck to it when the leaves are wet with rain?
The family Thyrididae consists of about 1000 species found in the lowland tropical rainforests of the Afrotropical, Oriental, Australian and neotropical regions. They are split into 4 subfamilies: Striglinae, Thyridinae, Siculodinae and Charideinae.
The Siculodinae is the largest subfamily with over 420 species arranged in 3 tribes: the Argyrotypini, Siculodini and Rhodoneurini. The majority of species are brown or reddish, and cryptically patterned to resemble dead leaves. The Siculodinae typically have falcate forewings with circular hyaline areas that simulate the holes eaten in leaves by beetles and moth larvae.

Siculodes aurorula has only been recorded on very rare occasions, with just 2 records from Brazil, one from Guyana and one from Trinidad. It undoubtedly also occurs in Venezuela and Surinam.

Habitats
Mid elevation tropical rainforest in Trinidad, Venezuela, Guyana and Brazil.
Lifecycle
Unknown.
Adult behaviour

Other than the fact that it is nocturnal, little is known. The moth could easily be handled, suggesting that it remains stationary and relies on disguise for protection from predators, rather than flying to escape.

 

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