John Howard, of Adams County, Ohio, sent along an interesting email today. While exploring one of the nicer prairie barrens in Adams County a few weeks back, John found a caterpillar that he couldn't place, or pin a name to even after consulting the literature. He did make some excellent photos, and just received word back from lepidopterist Loran Gibson as to its identity. Read on.
Photo: John Howard
And here it is, a rather charming little animal and seemingly distinctive with those rows of black polka dots. I can see why it caught John's eye and why he would want to know what it is.
Here's an excerpt of Mr Gibson's email to John:
The larva that you have a photo of is certainly an interesting species. It belongs to a moth in family Noctuidae and genus Schinia. The larvae are known from one location in Illinois, one location in Indiana, one location in Kentucky, and now, one location in Ohio! It is always found on Orbexilum onobrychis (scurf pea). The species is new to science. Although the larvae have been found a few times, the adult moth remains unknown and undescribed. Terry Harrison of University of Illinois tried to rear one of the Illinois larvae a couple of years ago, but was unsuccessful. The moth developed inside of the pupal case, but it did not emerge. Terry dissected the pupal case and saw the unopened wings. From that he was able to say that the moth is related to a western species known as Schinia jaguarina, but that is all that we know about this species. It is quite rare and you are fortunate to have the species at Kamama! Congratulations! Thank you for sending the photo! It adds significantly to our knowledge!
Schinia jaguarina, photo courtesy Moth Photographers Group
Presumably, the adult of this new species, as yet only know from caterpillars, will somewhat resemble the species in the photograph above.
This discovery just goes to show that there are still finds to be made, and as yet unknown animals lurking out there. It is vital that we protect big blocks of habitat to prevent the destruction of organisms that we don't yet know about, as well as those that we do.
Congratulations to John Howard for yet another extremely noteworthy find!