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The Wikipedia article for Syndesmica is not extensive. It tells you it’s a moth genus, but not much else.
So I Googled Syndesmica. I got 280 hits, all of which quote the Wikipedia article word for word.
Then I Google Scholar-ed Syndesmica. I got 3 hits, all of which were about Verruca Syndesmica, the wart common in frogs and toads.
I couldn’t find Syndesmica in the library catalogue (I tried four different university libraries). I couldn’t find the word Syndesmica in the index of any book about moths.
I started to think I was going insane.
Link to Wikipedia page
Stuff too cool to fit in the episode
Syndesmica was discovered in 1906, and hasn’t been seen since. Its discovery was noted in the Proceeding of the Royal Society of Queensland. Yes, that’s what the Proceedings of a Royal Society look like. Cool huh?
While making this episode I got obsessed with a book called Moths of Australia by I.F.B. Common. It is super scientific in its focus, and it’s out of print so it’s hard to find (but it is in the State Library of Victoria). The only person I’ve found who is as excited about this book as me is Brittanie, as you can see here when she gushes about it on her blog, Insects Galore. It was Brittanie who drew my attention to the chapter about moths which are PATHENOGENETIC. And then I had to look up PARTHENOGENETIC. And then I freaked out. Cos seriously, PARTHENOGENETIC. (The whole of Brittanie’s blog is worth reading, if only to show what a true lepidoptera enthusiast looks like, instead of a Johnny come lately like me. Also, make sure you check out her bio, it’s the best).
For this episode I went to visit Peter Marriott in the specimen room at Melbourne Museum. Here’s what Peter and the room look like.
As well as moths, when I was in the specimen room I got to see Lady Gaga-ntuan, the gargantuan stick insect that the Melbourne Museum found in 2014 and have been using to establish a breeding program. Unfortunately the original Lady Gaga-ntuan had recently passed away (picture below). But the breeding program was successful, one of Lady Gaga-ntuan’s offspring has now grown to become the largest known stick insect in Australia, at 56.5 cm long, just 2 mm off the world record. Here’s a video, not suitable for the bug-phobic
I also spoke to Ted Edwards for the episode, Ted is Australia’s premier moth guy. In 2015 he discovered a living moth dinosaur, and then a few months later he talked to me on the phone about something unrelated. So basically I discovered a living moth dinosaur (that’s how discovery works, right?)
Syndesmica was discovered by FP Dodd, the Butterfly Man of Kuranda. He turned his house into a lepidopterist museum, and made his kids work in it.
Syndesmica was scientifically catagorised by Alfred Turner. He was a doctor who collected moths in his spare time. His nickname was Gentle Annie, because he was very comfortable in his masculinity.
Karl Jordan did not discover or scientifically categorise Syndesmica, but he did name and catalogue hundreds of insect species, and I read a lot about him while researching this episode. You should read about him too, particularly the part of his life spent at Tring, a small town in Hertforshire, England. Jordan worked at the zoological museum in Tring, his boss was Walter Rothschild, there were kangaroos and cassowaries roaming the museum grounds, and Walter liked to drive through London in a cart pulled by zebras. As do I.
(I read about all of this in Ordering Life: Karl Jordan and the Naturalist Tradition by Kristin Johnson, which is an awesome book. Unlike Moths of Australia, which is really only suitable for those going through a severe bout of lepidoptera obsession, Ordering Life is super readable and still in print. There’s a copy at the Ballieu Library at the University of Melbourne, and it’s also available on Amazon)