Walsh said he is confident there are bound to be more. "If this thing is flying at the top of the Chiricahuas, it's probably pretty common," he said.
Finding it is another matter because moths like Lithophane tend to over-winter at higher elevations, hibernating when there is snow on the ground and flying off at the first signs of spring. Walsh said bats are the primary predators of moths, and so if the insects can make it through the winter, when bats hibernate, they will likely do well as the weather gets warmer.
As to why L. leeae hasn't been found before, Walsh theorized that his specimen simply emerged late from hibernation when it was caught. Another theory is that it could be a stray from another mountain range in the region. He said there are a number of species that fly early in the summer and are rare in collections and not often seen in most years.
"We can now add L. leeae to this group of large, but quite elusive, species," he said.
|Contact: Johnny Cruz|
University of Arizona