Foxy Automeris

This morning I found an IO moth Automeris sp. I didn’t turn on the UV light last night to attract insects but this moth was attracted to the inside lighting anyway and I discovered it outside on the windowsill of the living room.  Here is a photo.

From Mount Totumas – Automeris sp.

It l looks a lot like a dead leaf.  This family of moths along with several other families of Lepidoptera have eye spots that are a defense against predators. When attacked by a flycatcher for example this moth will expose its underwings and two big eye spots will temporarily create a flight response in the bird as these eyespots resemble the forward facing eyes of a predator. That moment of panic often gives the moth just enough time to escape. This is a classic text book story in entomology. So here is a photo with this same moth with its underwings exposed.

From Mount Totumas – Automeris sp.

I just had to slightly agitate the moth for him to fan open his underwings to expose these predatory eyes. It’s a beautiful insect and the eyespots surely look affective in temporarily scaring a potential avian predator. But what about that large black round spot above its thorax. Is this part of its display?  Let’s look at a photo of this moth turned around 180 degrees.

From Mount Totumas – Automeris sp.

Damn if that black spot doesn’t look like a nose to me.   Together with the eyespots a face appears that looks like a fanciful member of the weasel or raccoon family.  Kind of foxy even, wouldn’t you say? So consulting the field guide of Neotropical Rainforest Mammals here at Mount Totumas we can look for a Central American arboreal predator. For example in the raccoon family found here in these cloud forests is the Cacomistle.  Now let’s give the Cacomistle a fanciful new face using the pattern of the Automeris moth.  Here is the result in a photo of a drawing I made with my limited artistic ability.

From Mount Totumas – Automeris sp

I wonder if that black patch on the thorax of that moth does complete a terrifying face for the Tropical Kingbird who is intent on making a meal of this insect? Or if this is just my own projection on the pattern of this beautiful insect? What do you think?

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