Monday, 1 August 2016

Up tails all

I missed a Yellowtail showing its yellow tail the other day and had to content myself a few days later with a picture showing a glimpse of the splash of colour from behind. On Saturday night, my visitors were kinder. Here is the feature I was after, on full display above with the moth trap's cowl behind and gradually being lowered below.

The curious pose when at rest is shared by a large number of other moths which are signalling for mates via scented pheremones which are a key part of their sexual armoury. Moths are Sniffing rather than Peeping Toms. Both sexes can scent the other, sometimes from distances greater than a mile.

Above is a  second Yellowtail seen through the trap's cowl, resting with its abdomen tucked out of sight. By contrast, the two pictures below show a Small Phoenix, a beautifully-patterned species which was also in the trap, going for the tail-in-the-air option.

Scientific work continues on how this process works, but antennae are part of the system. Males seem to do most of the hunting, and often have much more complex antennae than females to help them in the role. I wonder if this remarkable power, so much greater than our own, will ever be adapted in other ways for human use.

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