Madagascar Hawkmoth Has the World's Longest Tongue

The Madagascan hawkmoth is now recognized as a new species, and it has the longest tongue of any insect. This species was predicted by Charles Darwin and Alfred Russel Wallace before being discovered.

In 1862, Darwin speculated that an orchid with a nectar tube of 30 centimeters long can only be pollinated by a moth with a very long tongue. Then, in 1867, Wallace predicted that the moth would be similar to a hawkmoth with a long proboscis, and it can be found in the same place together with the orchid.

Wallace wrote, “That such a moth exists in Madagascar may be safely predicted, and naturalists who visit that island should search for it with as much confidence as astronomers searched for the planet Neptune, – and they will be equally successful.”

He was proven correct when the moth was finally described by Karl Jordan and Lord Walter Rothschild in 1903. Now, the moth is classified as a new species named Xanthopan praedicta.

Image: Minet et al. 2021

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Darwin's orchid (Angraecum sesquipedale). Image: Allan Hopkins/Flickr

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