Appalachian Mountains New Moth Species Discovered

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The distinct and varying species of a moth flitted around the Appalachian Mountains since before the dawn of man. Recently, a team of researchers gathered information and data on the new species, and published their findings in the journal Zookeys. Finally, that new species has been given a name, decades after it was initially discovered. The small and otherwise non-committal moth species has potentially been in existence prior to the first human footfall. The area was cared for and its residents were Native Americans, of the Cherokee tribe.

In the late 50s, Dr. John G. Fraclemont, from Cornell University, reviewed the insects in his lab. He noted one to two of the collected moths from the Highlands Biological Station in Macon County, NC was different than the commonly seen moth.

The new insect was not named, and it was not until nearly four decades later, another biologist, Dr. J Bolling Sullivan III, reviewed the insect in its natural habitat. Curious about the new moth species, he partnered with Eric Quinter, a retired entomologist, who had studied a unique “hill crane” habitat in the southeastern states of the U.S.

The researchers combined their shared knowledge of the area, species and habitat, and dubbed the new species, Cherokeea attakullakulla. The scientists stated it was to honor the Cherokee nation who were “exemplary stewards of the habitats and resources of the region.” The name Attakullakulla is to honor the Supreme Cherokee Leader who ruled from 1761 until 1775. He also represented the Cherokee nation in London and the Carolinas to compromise peace treaties.

The study goes into descriptive explanations of the features of the Cherokeea moth, as seen below.

(1)Adult make holotype (2)Female paratype (3)Male plain form paratype (4) Female plain form paratype

The researchers advise more information is yet to be found regarding these ancient winged moths. It is believed they feed upon the native grass where their original location was discovered in the Appalachian Mountains.

The scientists state as flighty as the moths are around the peak of summer, they remain a highly sedentary species. Due to this, scientists state they may not be as rare as considered. With the basic fundamentals in place, the researchers state more work is needed. They hope to expand the growing knowledge of the moth, now officially known as, Cherokeea attakullakulla.


Journal Source:
Quinter E, Sullivan JB (2014) A new apameine genus and species from the southern Appalachian Mountains, USA (Lepidoptera, Noctuidae, Noctuinae). ZooKeys 421: 181-191. doi: 10.3897/zookeys.421.7727