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Undiscovered insect (Invertebrate) of Madagascar.

Giant Moth

Madagascan Hawk Moth

Scientific name: Xanthopan sp.

Physical description: Hawk moth with a 16-inch proboscis.

Distribution: Lake Itasy, Madagascar.

Possible explanation: The epiphytic Madagascan orchid Angraecum longicalcar has a rostrellum about 16 inches deep that leads to it's nectar-producing organs. No known local moth has a proboscis that long. However, entomologist Gene Kritsky predicts that one must exist, since the plant manages to propagate itself.

Present status: The existence of a Madagascan hawk moth (Xanthopan morgani praedicta) with a 12-inch proboscis was predicted in 1862 by Charles Darwin, due to the physical requirement for reaching the nectar in the Comet orchid (Angraecum sesquipedale). The insect was finally discovered and described in 1903.

Sources: Gene Kritsky, “Darwin’s Madagascan Hawk Moth Prediction,” American Entomologist 37 (Winter 1991): 206–210; Natalie Angier, “It May Be Elusive, but Moth with 15-Inch Tongue Should Be Out There,” New York Times, January 14, 1992.

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