Synemon semaphora Kallies & Edwards

Kallies, Axel, Edwards, Edward D. & Williams, Andrew A. E., 2020, New and little-known sun-moth species from Australia (Lepidoptera, Castniidae), Zootaxa 4895 (2), pp. 151-195: 173-176

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Synemon semaphora Kallies & Edwards

sp. n.

Synemon semaphora Kallies & Edwards   sp. n.

Semaphore Sun-moth

Figs 49–52 View FIGURES 49–56 , 61 View FIGURES 61–63 , 64 View FIGURES 64–67 , 68–70 View FIGURES 68–72

Literature: Williams et al. 2016: 124–126, figs 32, 33 (‘as Synemon   sp. Mount Dale’).

Material examined. Holotype: Ƌ ‘ Mt Dale WA 29 December 1987 R.W. Hay’ ( ANIC)   . Paratypes: 14Ƌ, 2♀, same data as holotype ( Fig. 61a, b, d View FIGURES 61–63 , genitalia and legs slides 11843, 13051; BOLD barcode ANIC14882 View Materials ) ( ANIC, MVM, CFD)   ; 1♀, Mt Dale , 23.i.1926, W.B. Barnard ( ANIC)   ; 10Ƌ, 2♀, Kalamunda , 25.xii.1925, 1.i.1926, 2.i.1926, 3.i.1926, 8.i.1926, 1.ii.1926, W.B. Barnard ( QMB)   ; 1Ƌ, Darlington 7967 ( WAM)   ; 1Ƌ, Mt Cook , 32.25S 115.18E, 23–25.i.1985, S. Barker & R.P. McMillan ( WAM) GoogleMaps   ; 1Ƌ, Abyssinia Rock , 12 km S Mt Dale, 3214’ 10.5 S View Materials 11617’ 36.5E, 5.i.2013, A.A.E. Williams ( ANIC) GoogleMaps   ; 1Ƌ, Albany HWY, Sullivan Rock, 3222’ 35.8 S View Materials 11615’ 12.8E, 16.i.2011, A.A.E. Williams ( ANIC) GoogleMaps   ; 1Ƌ, Serpentine N.P., 2.8 km NW Jarrahdale, 3219’ 06.0 S View Materials 11602’ 36.8E, 4.i.2012, A.A.E. Williams ( ANIC) GoogleMaps   ; 2Ƌ, Blue Rock , 5 km ENE Jarrahdale, 3219’ 42.0 S View Materials 11606’ 54.8E, 9.i.2012, 10.i.2012, A.A.E. Williams ( ANIC) GoogleMaps   ; 1Ƌ, N Bannister , 5.i.1961, M.S. Moulds ( ANIC)   ; 3Ƌ, 8♀, Yarloop , 11.i.1991, M.S. & B.J. Moulds ( Figs 61c View FIGURES 61–63 , 64 View FIGURES 64–67 , genitalia slide 11844, BOLD barcode ANIC14881; genitalia slide 13052, BOLD barcode ANIC14883 View Materials ) ( ANIC)   ; 1Ƌ, 1♀, Mt Dale , woodland below summit, 31.xii.2006, A. Kallies ( CAK)   ; 1Ƌ, 1♀, Kinsella Rd off Brookton HWY, 3211’30 S 11611 View Materials ’29E, 7.i.2017, A.A.E. Williams ( CAK)   ; 1Ƌ, 1♀, 9km NW North Bannister , 3230’ 57.7 S View Materials 11622’43.2E, 1.i.2013 (Ƌ), 3230’ 56.4 S View Materials 11622’41.2E, 18.i.2013 (1♀), A.A.E. Williams ( WAM) GoogleMaps   ; 1♀, Brookton HWY, 4km SE Kinsella Rd, 3210’ 28.8 S View Materials 11614’ 06.9E, 17.i.2012, A.A.E. Williams ( WAM) GoogleMaps   ; 1♀, Brookton HWY, 6.8km SE Kinsella Rd, 3211’ 22.3 S View Materials 11615’ 31.0E, 18.i.2012, F. Hort & J. Hort ( WAM) GoogleMaps   ; 1Ƌ, 1.3km S Chidlow , 3152’ 30.1 S View Materials 11615’ 46.6E, 15.i.2015, A.A.E. Williams ( WAM) GoogleMaps   ; 1♀, Gibbs State Forest , Watershed Rd, 3224’ 39.3 S View Materials 11625’ 17.5E, 11.ii.2012, A.A.E. Williams ( WAM) GoogleMaps   ; 1Ƌ, Great Southern HWY, 3.6 km E The Lakes, 3152’ 46.8 S View Materials 11623’ 11.1E, 21.i.2012, A.A.E. Williams ( WAM) GoogleMaps   ; 15Ƌ, 3♀, Jarrahdale , 1.1 km S Blue Rock, 3220’ 20.9 S View Materials 11606’ 49.1E, 16.i.2012 (2Ƌ), 17.i.2012 (1Ƌ), 1.i.2013 (7Ƌ, Figs 49, 50 View FIGURES 49–56 ), 8.i.2013 (4Ƌ, 1♀), 18.i.2013 (5Ƌ, 2♀), A.A.E. Williams ( WAM, ANIC) GoogleMaps   ; 1Ƌ, Near Jarrahdale , 3220’ 19.8 S View Materials 11606’ 50.1E, 14.i.2015, A.A.E. Williams ( WAM) GoogleMaps   ; 8Ƌ, John Forrest N.P., 3153’ 55.9 S View Materials 11605’ 24.5E, 21.i.2012 (7Ƌ), 12.i.2013 (1Ƌ), A.A.E. Williams ( WAM) GoogleMaps   ; 7Ƌ, 4♀, Canning Rd , Ko-rung N.P., 3203’ 28.9 S View Materials 11606’ 21.1E, 19.i.2012, A.A.E. Williams ( WAM) GoogleMaps   ; 32Ƌ, 8♀, Metro Rd , 1.8 km S Brookton HWY, 3214’55.7S 11626’47.8E, 31.xii.2010 (9 Ƌ, 3♀), 1.i.2011 (15 Ƌ, 3♀), 10.i.2011 (2 Ƌ, 1♀, Figs 51, 52 View FIGURES 49–56 ), 26.xii.2011 (3 Ƌ), 26.xii.2012 (1 Ƌ, 1♀), 3214’55.4S 11626’47.9E, 27.xii.2011 (5 Ƌ, 1♀), 3214’53.8S 11626’44.9E, 13.xii.2017 (1 Ƌ, 1♀), A.A.E. Williams ( WAM, ANIC, CAK) GoogleMaps   ; 9Ƌ, 2♀, Metro Rd , 4.5 km S Brookton HWY, 3216’01.3S 11626’59.4E, 13.i.2011 (1 Ƌ, 1♀), 15.i.2011 (8 Ƌ, 1♀), F. & J. Hort & L. Boyle ( WAM) GoogleMaps   ; 2♀, Metro Rd, S Brookton HWY, 3214’56 S 11626 View Materials ’47E, 7.i.2017, A.A.E. Williams ( WAM)   ; 1♀, S Mt Dale , 250 Metres E Omeo Rd, 3208’ 50.1 S View Materials 11617’ 31.6E, 13.i.2012, A.A.E. Williams ( WAM) GoogleMaps   ; 8Ƌ, 6♀, Mt Dale , Near Bibbulmun Tk Hut, 3207’59.8S 11617’58.3E, 31.xii.2010 (1 Ƌ), 3208’03.6S 11617’55.9E, 2.i.2012 (1♀), 3207’56.4S 11617’47.5E, 10.i.2012 (1 Ƌ, 1♀), 3208’02.9S 11617’56.6E, 13.i.2012 (6 Ƌ, 4♀), A.A.E. Williams ( WAM) GoogleMaps   ; 8Ƌ, 5♀, Mundaring Weir Rd, 3.9 km SSE Mundaring, 3156’ 06.3 S View Materials 11610’ 55.4E, 21.i.2012 (3Ƌ, 3♀), 4.i.2013 (1Ƌ), 22.i.2013 (3Ƌ, 1♀), 24.xii.2015 (1Ƌ, 1♀), A.A.E. Williams ( WAM) GoogleMaps   ; 2Ƌ, Perth , Greenmont N.P., 3154’28.0S 11604’11.0E, 20.i.2015, F. Hort & J. Hort ( WAM) GoogleMaps   ; 23Ƌ, 9♀, Canning Mills Rd , Roleystone, 3205’ 50.1 S View Materials 11602’ 49.4E, 17.i.2012 (2Ƌ, 1♀), 19.i.2012 (13Ƌ), 26.i.2012 (2Ƌ, 5♀), 30.i.2012 (4Ƌ, 1♀), 14.i.2015 (2Ƌ), 20.i.2015 (1♀), 12.i.2018 (1♀), A.A.E. Williams ( WAM, ANIC, CFD) GoogleMaps   ; 8Ƌ, 3♀, State Forest , Kinsella Rd, 3211’ 30.2 S View Materials 11611’ 29.2E, 17.i.2012 (11Ƌ, 3♀), 5.i.2013 (4Ƌ), 7.i.2017 (3Ƌ), A.A.E. Williams ( WAM) GoogleMaps   .

Excluded from type series. 1Ƌ, Swan R., W Australia, L. J. Newman ( MVM)   ; 1♀, Hovea , 25.i.1934, K.R. Norris ( ANIC)   ; 1Ƌ, 1♀, Mt Peron , 28.xi.1978, leg. et coll. M. Powell; 4Ƌ, Lesueur N.P., Upper Slope of Mt Peron, 3006’41.4” S 11509 View Materials ’06.5”E, 3.xii.2014, A.A.E. Williams ( WAM)   .

Etymology. The species is named after its known hostplant, the semaphore sedge, Mesomelaena tetragona (R. Br.) Benth.   , Cyperaceae   .

Description. Male ( Figs 49, 50 View FIGURES 49–56 ). Alar expanse 38–43 mm, forewing length 17–20 mm, body length 18–21 mm. Head, vertex with dark grey piliform and lamellar scales, frons with projecting piliform and lamellar scales grey, labial palpi fairly short, appressed to head not reaching frons, white, haustellum present, coiled, well developed, antenna black narrowly annulated with white scales, distal few flagellomeres black above and white beneath, club black above, white proximally beneath, expanding abruptly, nudum 8–9 orange brown on anterior third of club, apiculus scaled short narrow. Thorax robust, above dark grey, of mixed piliform and broad lamellar scales, a narrow collar of scales, a trace of a red dot near the base on each patagium, lateral tuft of long grey scales present, beneath white, slightly tinged orange laterally, legs grey above, pale grey beneath, epiphysis clothed in short spines, marked spine at tip, terminating just short of end of foretibia. Abdomen stout, dark grey above, T2, T3 with numerous long grey scales, beneath pale grey, tinged with orange scales laterally.

Forewing costa slightly arched at base, straight, apex rounded, termen well rounded, and slightly angled inwards, inner margin almost straight. Upperside very dark grey with markings of black and white, entire wing with scattered pale blue scales; basal third of wing dark grey, a broad median black band from costa almost to inner margin, narrowing posteriorly, a large ill-defined white mark at end of cell, a broad dark grey patch at two thirds costa and extending from costa to CuA1, below this a large area of grey with discrete black spots between veins, a band of ill-defined white subapical spots from R3 to M1 and sometimes to M3, a submarginal band of discrete black spots between R3 and 1A+2A, margin dark grey. Cilia dark grey. Underside black with white and orange-red markings; basal half black with orange scales in basal half of cell, an orange-red median band from costa to inner margin, proximal edge displaced at CuA1, paler towards centre of band with white patches in centre, a large white spot near end of cell, a broad orange-red subapical band from R2 to M3, centre broadly white, a submarginal band of discrete ill-defined orange-red spots between the veins from apex to inner margin, anterior four spots white, fusing with subapical band between M2 and M3 and with median band between CuA2 and CuP, pale grey from CuP to inner margin, a terminal black line. Cilia dark grey.

Hindwing termen evenly rounded, not notably flattened in tornal area. Upperside black with red or orange-red spots; large red spot at distal end of cell, a median broad red unbroken band extending from Rs to 1A+2A, band almost broken and inner margin notched inward at M3, outer margin extended along veins, a submarginal band of red spots from M2 to 1A+2A, usually with the red spot from M2 to M3 small and spot from M3 to CuA1 often narrow, elongate and joining median band, anal area black basally, distally dark grey and without a tornal red spot. Cilia black, orange from Sc+R1 to M2 and black at tornus. Underside black mostly obscured by orange-red spots; basal half of wing black, largely obscured by orange-red scales, an orange spot at distal end of cell with large white centre, a broad median band of orange-red from Sc+R1 to 1A+2A with some white centres, notched inwards at M3 and distal margin of band running along veins, sometimes running into submarginal row of spots, a submarginal row of orange-red spots from Sc+R1 to 1A+2A, spots anterior to M2 small and white, a narrow black terminal line, anal area broadly orange-red but tornus black. Cilia dark grey, red to orange from Sc+R1 to M2.

Female ( Figs 51, 52 View FIGURES 49–56 ). Alar expanse 44–47 mm. Similar to male, larger, apex more rounded, wings slightly broader, coloration similar to male, anal area on upperside of hindwing extensively orange-red. Subapical white markings of forewing more extensive extending to M3. Underside with orange-red colouring more extensive and black areas often reduced and fragmented. Abdomen more extensively pale orange-brown.

Male genitalia ( Fig. 61 View FIGURES 61–63 ). Uncus short, ending in a single tip, with short setae; gnathos arms with narrow sclerotizations beside anal tube; tegumen broad; valva rounded, compact with prominent upturned spine at tip and a broad hump on costa, with numerous short setae; phallus moderately long, well sclerotized, broad and broadening anteriorly, strongly and evenly curved, apically pointed, anteriorly with phallobase slightly recurved; ductus ejaculatorius longer than phallus, with numerous coils.

Female genitalia ( Fig. 64 View FIGURES 64–67 ). Papillae anales short, pointed, sclerotized; ovipositor long, narrow, extensible, with numerous fine setae near base; apophyses long, heavily sclerotized, apophyses anteriores about half length of apophyses posteriores which extend from the tip of the papillae; sinus vaginalis with some sclerotized thickening; ostium bursae at posterior edge of S7; ductus seminalis from shortly before ostium; ductus bursae long narrow coiled; corpus bursae small and round, with a bilobed scobinate signum.

Diagnosis. This species belongs to the S. magnifica   group of species, which currently contains only three species, S. magnifica Strand, 1911   (restricted to eastern New South Wales and south-eastern Queensland), S. ignita Kallies & Edwards, 2016   (limited to Kangaroo Island, South Australia, and the Grampians, Victoria), and Synemon notha Westwood, 1877   , which occurs in the south-west of Western Australia. While S. notha   can be readily dis-tinguished from all species in the group (compare Williams et al. 2016), S. semaphora   sp. n. is similar to both S. magnifica   and S. ignita   . However, it differs by the more orange colour of the hind wing markings (deep red to deep orange in the species compared) and by its orange submarginal spots that are often (not always) linked to the median orange-red band in hindwing.

S. semaphora   sp. n. is also similar to S. angustiptera   sp. n. and S. petrophila   sp. n. (see their diagnoses below). The genitalia of the species in this group are very similar and show few species-specific differences. S. semaphora   sp. n. differs from S. magnifica   in the morphology of the male genitalia (uncus bilobed in S. magnifica   , pointed in S. semaphora   sp. n.). The female genitalia are similar (corpus bursae longer in S. magnifica   , shorter and rounder in S. semaphora   sp. n.; with a simple signum in S. angustiptera   sp. n., with two-lobed signum in S. magnifica   , S. semaphora   sp. n. and S. petrophila   sp. n.).

Variation. This species varies somewhat in the extent of the white marking on the forewings. Specimens from the isolated population at Mt Peron in Lesueur National Park show some consistent differences, including more numerous and larger white marking on the hindwing upper and underside. They also differ in their barcodes and more work is required to determine whether they represent a distinct species or subspecies.

Distribution. Synemon semaphora   sp. n. occurs most commonly on the Darling Range east of Perth, and inland at Mt Dale and north of Bannister. To the north, an isolated population occurs at Mt Peron in Lesueur National Park. South of Perth the species has been recorded nearer the coast at Yarloop. Despite the larval host plant being common in the south-west and south coastal areas, the sun-moth has not been recorded south of Yarloop (Williams et al. 2016).

Habitat and Biology ( Figs 68–70 View FIGURES 68–72 ). In its main range, east of Perth, S. semaphora   sp. n. has been recorded from late December to mid-February, with its main flight period between late December and late January. At the isolated Mount Peron site, the species flies for a short period in late November and early December. The larval food plant is the large semaphore sedge, Mesomelaena tetragona (R.Br.) Benth.   , which often grows on laterite, or on sand with a laterite component. On the Darling Range east of Perth, S. semaphora   sp. n. is invariably found in Marri, Corymbia calophylla (Lindl.)   and/or Jarrah Eucalyptus marginata Sm.   (both Myrtaceae   ) dominated forest or woodland where the understory has a major component of M. tetragona   . S. semaphora   sp. n. is often most common in forest where newly regenerating foodplants are growing after a fire. The isolated northern sun-moth population at Mount Peron occurs in low species-rich heathland on an upper hill slope, where surface laterite outcrops through the sand. At this site the species appears to only be abundant three or four years after fire.

Remarks. This species was referred to as Synemon   sp. ‘Mount Dale’, the Semaphore Sun-moth, by Williams et al. (2016).


Australian National Insect Collection


Queensland Museum, Brisbane


Western Australian Museum