No April Fools: Morpho Mating with Atlas Moth

Subject: Some bug love
Location: Scottsdale, AZ
April 1, 2016 7:51 pm
Thought you might get a kick out of a very odd pairing discovered where I work. A male common Morpho (Morpho peleides) mating with a female atlas moth (Attacus atlas). Photographed at Butterfly Wonderland in Scottsdale, Arizona. I know it’s April Fools day but the pictures are not “photo shopped”. (For some reason the Commodors song “She’s a Brick House” keeps running through my head). Of course they are not genetically compatible but it’s fun to imagine what offspring would look like……
Signature: Butterfly wrangler

Morpho mating with Atlas Moth!!!
Morpho mating with Atlas Moth!!!

Dear Butterfly Wrangler,
We cannot imagine what would have spawned this Unnatural Selection.  Though it is not photoshopped, can you also state there was no human intervention involved?  Forgive us for being suspicious, but we are frequently targeted with pranks and hoaxes.

Unnatural Selection
Unnatural Selection

Lepidopterist Julian Donahue comments
Spring is in the air!

Interoffice Communication
Hey Max, I sent a couple of photos of the moth/Morpho pairing to “what’s that bug?” Web site . Their response is below.
If this wasn’t an elaborate April Fools joke would you like to respond to the email below to assure them the pairing was not manipulated?  (If this was a joke it was a good one!) If you would rather be anonymous and not email them I’ll understand. If you don’t mind answering them, I think you mentioned seeing a different pair of inter-species breeding on the same Palm. They may be interested in what those species were as well.
Let me know. ?
Paula Swanson
Assistant Curator
Butterfly Wonderland

A second substantiation
Dear Daniel,
There was no manipulation in the Atlas-Morpho mating. It is actually the second time I have seen this. See attached photo from May 2015( which also has a second morpho trying to squeeze in). The only thing I did, was after the photos were taken I used my tweezers to gently move the wings to see if the genitals were actually in union, which they were. I have another photo of an Atlas mating with a Mormon, but I can’t find it. I will look for it when I get to work later.
Max B. Shure
Butterfly Curator
Butterfly Wonderland

Documentation of another Morpho Butterfly and Atlas Moth pairing
Documentation of another Morpho Butterfly and Atlas Moth pairing

Thanks so much for the follow-up Max.  This is so fascinating.  We wonder if perhaps there is some similarity in the pheromones released by the two species.  Since they occur naturally on different continents, they would not normally interact with one another, but captivity in the Butterfly Wonderland has brought together two species that would never naturally interact with one another.

6 thoughts on “No April Fools: Morpho Mating with Atlas Moth”

  1. It is indeed curious to know how their offspring would look like. Will it have spikes like the Atlas caterpillar or hairs like the Morpho caterpillar?
    Also, will they pupate in a cocoon or chrysalis?

    • This wild speculation is the stuff of fantasies, and the photoshop creations from the Conan O’Brien Show used in the “If they Mated?” skits would be just as speculative. Neither form of speculation has any factual basis in how sexual reproduction combines dominant and recessive genes that govern the physical appearance of offspring produced through unions.


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