Melody Teh

News

Fri, 6 Mar, 2015

Newly discovered moth is “a living dinosaur”

Newly discovered moth is “a living dinosaur”

A newly discovered moth found on Kangaroo Island in South Australia is so primitive it has been described as a living dinosaur.

The tiny “enigma” moth indicates an entire new family of primitive moths, prompting scientists to reconsider the insect’s family tree to better understand the world of moth and butterfly evolution.

The results of DNA analysis of the enigma moth suggests that moth and butterfly evolution is much more complex than previously believed.

CSIRO honorary fellow and moth specialist Ted Edwards said the results showed the enigma moth has retained many structural features associated with primitive moth species which lived 40 to 50 million years ago.

“It's really quite remarkable because it means that that ancestral line has continued right through without changing a lot of its basic structures,” he told The Age.

It’s estimated that Australia is home to around 22,000 species of moths and butterflies but only half have been named. It is the first time since the 1970s that a new family of primitive moths have been discovered.

Image credit: The Age/Leigh Henningham

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