My two older boys found this moth this morning on our back porch. Those guys were freaking out. “Mom, Dad, a giant moth is on the back porch.”
“Is it a Luna Moth?” I asked – my oldest caught a Luna last summer.
“No sir. Hurry! It’s huge!”
Well, it IS big. It’s called a Polyphemus Moth. It is said to grow up to a 5 1/2 inch wingspan. This one has a span close to that. Below is another picture with my 8-year-old’s hands in the shot.
“Check out those eyes on its wings, Dad!”
“Yeah, it looks like an owl doesn’t it? A bird comes swooping down thinking its going to get a juicy meal, the moth flaps its wings down and the bird see’s its worst nightmare – an owl face.”
“Cool!” He loved that.
This is a great example of intelligence in nature. Of course the moth is not aware that it looks like an owl, and it doesn’t try to look like an owl. But the more it looks like an owl, the better its chances of survival. If a moth is born that looks slightly more like an owl than its siblings, it will be slightly more likely to survive to reproduce. This is intelligence built into the system.
While an owl’s face serves this moth very well, there’s a crab that adopted a human face – specifically the face of a Samurai warrior.
On April 24, 1185 there was a decisive naval battle between two groups of Samurai – the Heike and the Genji. The Heike were outnumbered and lost badly. The Heike who survived the battle committed suicide by jumping into the sea.
Upon receiving news of this defeat, the seven-year-old Heike emperor was taken by his caretaker Lady Nii to the ocean where, after prayers to the East and West, they also hurled themselves into the sea with the words, “In the depths of the ocean is our capitol.”
Fisherman who descended from that royal court came to believe that the Heike warriors still roamed the ocean floor guarding their youthful emperor. When these fisherman caught crabs that resembled a face, it was thrown back into the ocean to commemorate the events of that disastrous battle.
The more the crabs resembled a Heike warrior’s face, the better their chances of survival.
As the generations passed, of crabs and fishermen alike, the crabs with patterns that most resembled a samurai face survived preferentially until eventually there was produced not just a human face, not just a Japanese face, but the visage of a fierce and scowling samurai.