Angraecum leonis

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Xanthopan Morgami Praedicta

     Charles Darwin (12 February, 1809 - 19 April, 1882); a naturalist, geologist and a writer.  The father of evolutionary theory writing "On the Origin of Species" which was published in 1859 and to date, one hundred fifty plus years later, is still heavily debated in both the scientific and religious communities.

     Regarding Darwin's orchid, the story goes something like this: during the Holiday season back in 1861, Charles was having dinner with a close friend of his outside of London, England.  At some point prior to or sometime after dinner, they took a stroll through the greenhouse (which were very popular among the rich at the time).  Charles came across an Angraecum sesquipedale in full bloom (blooming time in the northern hemisphere).  He was amazed at the shape, size, fragrance and of course the pristine white of the flower.  This friend had promised Mr. Darwin that he would send him several flowers after the Holidays so that he could take a much closer look at them.
      In January of 1862, Charles received several of the Angcm. sesquipedale flowers that were promised him.  After very close examination of those flowers, he came to the conclusion that a moth, with a proboscis (tongue) of least 9 -10 inches or possibly longer was the pollinator of this particular species.  Charles being a writer, had his findings published.  Almost immediately, he is ridiculed and even laughed at because of his prediction.
     However, in 1873, some ten plus years after his prediction, a French botanist, while in Brazil discovers a Giant Sphinx Moth with a proboscis of six inches long.  Many of Charlies critics begin to wonder as to the possibility of Mr. Darwin being right.  After the excitement settles down, everyone falls back into the fact that Charlie was off his rocker.
     Twenty one years after the death of Charles Darwin, another French botanist while in Madagascar discovers a moth with a proboscis of well over twelve inches.  The predicted one actually exists.  It is named Xanthopan Morgami Praedicta (the Predicted One).

Click on the play button to view this video.
     A century and a half later comes the first ever video or film of Darwin's moth.  It was the brain child of the Bug-man.  A kids favorite program on the Animal Planet Network.  The Public Broadcasting System approached him and asked if he would create a segment for the PBS program entitled Nature.  The segment would be included in the episode called "The Deep Jungle". 
     The moth is extremely sensitive to light; flash photography or movie lights would scare the moth from that area not to return.  The Bug-man used a series of Infrared LEDs to light the area and a camera that was sensitive to IR light only (not visible to the naked eye).  The above video is the result of that project.  The first ever visual account of Darwin's moth taking nectar from an Angcm. sesquipedale inevitably pollinating the blooms as it fed from the twelve inch long nectaries.
     It is a shame that Charles Darwin didn't get to realize his prediction.

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