Progression of Snake Face in Saturniid Moths

Martha O'Kennon

In many of the large Saturniid moths, you can see a progression of a snake face that appears in the extreme in the Attacus atlas moth through the Hyalophora cecropia, Antheraea polyphemus, Samia Walkeri (cynthia moth), and Callosamia prometheus.

Several of these specimens are from my insect collection made in Hopewell, Va.,leading up to 1954. The cecropia and polyphemus were raised by me a few years ago. These were recently eclosed specimens. I think it would be interesting to study the DNA of the older ones, esp. in comparison with newer individuals of the same "species".

Attacus atlas

Hyalophora cecropia

Antheraea polyphemus

Samia Walkeri(cynthia moth)

Callosamia prometheus female

Callosamia prometheus male

Let's just look at the corners, the right-hand end of the upper wing, for each of the moths above.

Attacus atlas

Hyalophora cecropia

Antheraea polyphemus

Samia Walkeri
(cynthia moth)

Callosamia prometheus

Callosamia prometheus

One thing that we can see from this array of "snake faces" in some of the large Saturniids is that A.atlas, H. cecropia, and A. polyphemus seem to share a fair amount of development. The face in the wing apices in A. atlas seems to resemble best some kind of snake's face. Both A. polyphemus and H. cecropia seem to have two eyespots (The little black dot in A. atlas's picture is actually a mark on the background.) Did one of the eyespots turn into the facial streak? A. atlas is an asian species, the other two New World. When did this considerable evolution take place?

Here is a paper from, showing the closeness of some of the large Saturniids, in particular, Attacus atlas, Hyalophora cecropia and Antheraea polyphemus. It was written by Jerome C. Regier,Tennessee State University, Nashville, Tennessee, United States; Michael C. Grant; Charles Mitter, University of Maryland, College Park, College Park, MD, United States; and Rodolphe Rougerie. Family tree of Silk Moths

Here is a detail from one of the illustrations (the second one)from that paper.

These insects are so aesthetic, they inspired me to make this wooden inlay painting of the Attacus Atlas Moths in my collection.

I have specimens of many, especially Southern, butterflies and moths from 1954 or older. Please write to me at if you require DNA for testing.

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copyright Martha O'Kennon 2016