Uncovering another lichen moth: Eudesmia aymara from Bolivia

Resumen (español): Después de estudiar la literatura sobre varios géneros de polillas de líquenes, descubrí una observación de Eudesmia aymara, una especie local y aparentemente poco común del centro de Bolivia. La observación fue realizada por @eldirko en enero de 2021. [En la taxonomía de iNat, esta especie solía ser incluida en el género Vianania. Posteriormente Bendib & Monet (1999) colocaron Vianania como sinónimo de Eudesmia.]

This is kind of fun! I’ve spent many days recently delving into the literature on the lichen moths of the genus Eudesmia and related genera such as Vianania, etc. This can be pretty tedious, but I really enjoy little discoveries along the way. Well, today I made a big “discovery” in this group of moths.

Eudesmia aymara was described originally in the genus Vianania by Ricardo N. Orfila in 1953 from a few specimens collected in Bolivia. The original description (of both the new genus and species) is in the Spanish-language journal, Physis, the official bulletin of the Argentine Association of Natural Sciences (Asociación Argentina de Ciencias Naturales). Hernan M. Beccacece of the National University of Córdoba (Argentina) was kind enough to send me a pdf of the original paper by Orfila. Almost simultaneously in my literature review, I came across a listing of “Type material of Arctiinae…in the Museo Argentino de Ciencias Naturales” (Rodriguez-Ramirez et al. 2020. Zootaxa 4742) which included photographs of the holotype specimen of Vianania aymara. [Incidentally, although Orfila does not explain the name, “aymara” refers to a population of indigenous people of Bolivia and their language.] As I read through Orfila’s description and looked at the photos in the other paper, I once again came to the conclusion that it ought to be recognizable in field photos. However, as of earlier today (11/26/2022), there were no observations of any Vianania or Eudesmia moths on iNaturalist from Bolivia, despite there being at least two and maybe three species occurring in the country.

So I began a search through tiger and lichen moths (Arctiinae) from Bolivia, which numbered some 1,500 observations. Several pages into this set of observations, I suddenly came across this observation by Dirk Dekker (@eldirko), made in the Sucre municipality, Chiquisaca Dept., Bolivia, in January 2021:
Eudesmia aymara, Bolivia, Dirk Dekker (iNat)
It is a perfect match to Orfila’s description and the illustration of the holotype specimen (which I can’t link to because of copyright restrictions). I finished going through the rest of the Arctiids in Bolivia and found no other examples. So Dirk’s image is the first photo of a living example of the species, and to date, the only one.

The species is recognized by the combination of marks I mention in Dirk’s observation, above, namely:
-- orange collar
-- black thorax and abdomen
-- pale yellow median band on the forewings consisting of 4 separate spots (innermost reduced to a dot)
-- two yellow subterminal patches on forewings
-- hindwing broadly yellow at base, with black terminal band
From Orfila’s specimens and Dirk Dekker’s image, the species has only been documented in two locations in mountainous central Bolivia. The number of specimens which may have been subsequently taken by collectors or researchers and which are sitting in obscure collections is unknown. It makes me wonder what other unrecognized discoveries are hidden among unidentified observations on iNaturalist!

DRAFT map of the distribution of five species of Eudesmia in southern South America. Data are from iNaturalist observations as of 8 December 2022 plus a few earlier records from the literature.

Acknowledgements: Thanks to Dirk Dekker (@eldirko) for uploading this important observation! I also thank Hernan M. Beccacece (Universidad Nacional de Córdoba, @hernan24) and Juan López-Gappa (Museo Argentino de Ciencias Naturales Bernardino Rivadavia) for providing difficult-to-locate references. Jose Balderrama (@jose_balderrama) helped with Bolivian placenames. Lucas Rubio (@lrubio7) helped update the taxonomy on iNaturalist.org. Tony Iwane (@tiwane) helped me trouble-shoot the syntax for this post.

Publicado el 27 de noviembre de 2022 a las 03:07 AM por gcwarbler gcwarbler


Thank you very much Chuck, i am learning a lot here! I added another photo to my observation I 've found from the same day and place.. Feel free to use it.

Anotado por eldirko hace más de un año

@eldirko Dirk, do you recall if the moth was alive at the time? It looks a bit disheveled.

Anotado por gcwarbler hace más de un año

I agree it looks a bit disheveled, but as far as I recall it was alive, I normally don't take photo's of dead specimens other then mammals and reptiles. My wife was with me and she confirms. It was a day extremely full of moths and butterflies at that same spot. I will go and check again around the same date in 2023 in the middle of the rainy season.

Anotado por eldirko hace más de un año

UPDATE (12/20/22): Added a draft map of the distribution of the five southern South American species of Eudesmia/Vianania.

Anotado por gcwarbler hace más de un año


I see your write-up here as an example of something that might appear in a scientific journal or a non-peer-reviewed publication, such as the News of the Lepidopterists' Society. But I believe your iNat journal post is a better medium for this type of "naturalist" article because it's far more accessible, and its updatable. And others can comment on it right in the post, basically providing open access peer review/discussion which would be missing from a paper publication except in the form of response letters in the publication or response publications in the literature which readers of the original article would be unlikely to ever see. I love that when I go to the iNat species account, a link to this journal post is listed in the "More Info" panel on the right. This makes your article far easier to find and read than if it were published traditionally.

I asked someone at iNat about posting a naturalist article like yours and their response was that this is not really what iNat is for. I disagree, and I think your journal post is a great example of why.

One suggestion... Please consider adding a live link to an iNat taxonomic search for the species (or the genus), something like "Current iNat observations of X." This helps keep your journal post timeless and makes it easy for readers to see if there is still only one post of the taxon.

One question... Do you know why the species info page for Eudesmia aymara (linked in your article) lists zero observations for the species? Yet if I click on the map view, it shows a dot for the single observation and I can click on the dot and see the observation details. Seems like a bug:



Anotado por euproserpinus hace cerca de un año

@euproserpinus Paul, that link to the species page seems to work OK for me. You might check your filters to see if you have limited the scope of your exploration. When I click on it, the one known observation is listed and displayed. And to your first point, that species page link will always be "timeless" and should display the current set of observations from the "View All" link.

As to my journal articles like this one and iNat's perspective on them, I've never had negative feedback from staff on these. It is true, such taxonomic overview articles offer something of a preliminary stage, or a "connecting link", between raw observations and a formal peer-reviewed publication, but my journal articles of this type are explicitly derived from iNaturalist data (primarily) and are meant to highlight the continuing advantage of the iNat database and discoveries yet to be made. I can't imagine them objecting to that. In the present case, I have a manuscript in preparation which will offer a formal overview of the entire Eudesmia genus. The expected target for that article will be Tropical Lepidoptera Research.

Anotado por gcwarbler hace cerca de un año


Yes, you were correct. For some reason there was a "United States" filter set. I'm sure I didn't set it... I just clicked the link from your article.

I think your perspective on iNat journal articles is spot on. Looking forward to many more, as well as your peer-reviewed journal articles!

Anotado por euproserpinus hace cerca de un año

Update: I'll have to establish a more permanent link to the distributional map mentioned near the end of this journal entry. My links to the SimpleMappr site are broken. Same problem in this entry:

Anotado por gcwarbler hace 9 meses

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