View Image Gallery of Family Saturniidae

The Saturniidae are found worldwide. They have their greatest diversity in the tropics, particularly the Neotropics. The higher classification is still far from stable, and the reader is referred to the works of Michener (1952) and Ferguson (1971-1972) for information on this. Only the subfamily Saturniinae is represented in the Indo-Australian tropics, so this region is probably the least diverse of the three main tropical zones.

Whilst it is usually relatively easy to define genera in terms of apomorphic character states, determination of relationships between genera is often difficult, a hindrance to the development of a stable higher classification (Nassig & Holloway, in press).

Most of the species are highly decorative and are thus prized by collectors. This has also led to a lot of ill-considered naming of races and varieties by enthusiasts who, though not experienced taxonomists, nevertheless wished to associate their names with taxa in the group. The type material is thus highly disseminated, sometimes lost or destroyed, making revisional work extremely difficult. The larvae are often highly polyphagous and easy to rear in captivity. There is much trade in live material and exchanges amongst breeders. Hybrids have been produced and, alas, also named. A most useful guide to the breeding and rearing of the family has been produced by Gardiner (1982); the work includes a number of colour illustrations of adults and larvae, as well as information on host-plants. Host-plant information presented here is abstracted only from literature covering observations made in the wild. Several species are important as producers of 'wild silk'.

Several accounts of Oriental Saturniidae faunas have been published. Arora & Gupta (1979) discussed 17 Indian species. Allen (1981) reviewed the Bornean fauna, recognising 20 species, since when two additional Antheraea have been added, one described here. W.A. Nassig (pers. comm.) has totalled the Sumatran fauna at 23. Lampe (1985) has assessed the Peninsular Malaysian fauna at 22, but to this total must be added Cricula elaezia Jordan.

The male antennae are characteristically quadripectinate though there are a few exceptions. The majority of taxa are characterised also by complex discal ocelli or 'windows' on both wings; the forewing pattern is usually more or less repeated on the hindwing distal to the ocellus but not basally. Radial veins in the forewing are usually reduced to four or three; the discal cells are usually closed by crossveins, though they are open in the tribe Attacini (Attacus Linnaeus and allies). In many of the subfamilies the forewing is conspicuously falcate. A tailed hindwing has evolved independently in a few lineages. The body of the male is small relative to the wing area; indeed the Attacini include species with the largest wing area of all Lepidoptera.

In the male genitalia the uncus is often bifid, the gnathus weak or absent. The valve is usually deep, bilobed in Saturniinae.

Early stages
The larvae are large, often strikingly coloured. A large number have paired setose scoli or horns dorsally, dorsolaterally and sublaterally (below the spiracles), making three rows on each side, though, as in other Bombycoidea, there is only one central dorsal process on segment A8 in most subfamilies, though a number of Saturniinae have a pair of scoli or have only partial fusion (Nassig, in press a & b). There is great variety in the length and distribution of secondary setae, some larvae being densely hairy, others generally glabrous or with bristles on the scoli. In many groups the paired dorsal processes of the two posterior thoracic segments and the caudal horn are emphasised relative to the rest, which may be reduced, tending towards the condition in Brahmaeidae and Spiramiopsis.

Pupation in most subfamilies is in a dense silken cocoon suspended from, or attached to, the host-plant or wrapped in foliage. Some New World groups and most African Bunaeini pupate in the soil without a cocoon.

Host-plant relationships
Saturniid species tend to be polyphagous. The Oriental taxa discussed here have been recorded as feeding from the following 52 plant families: Anacardiaceae, Annonaceae, Apocynaceae, Aquifoliaceae, Araliaceae, Asclepiadaceae, Barringtoniaceae, Berberidaceae, Betulaceae, Bishofiaceae, Burseraceae, Caricaceae, Combretaceae, Coriariaceae, Corylaceae, Cyperaceae, Daphniphyllaceae, Dilleniaceae, Dipterocarpaceae, Ericaceae, Euphorbiaceae, Fagaceae, Juglandaceae, Labiatae, Lauraceae, Leeaceae, Leguminosae, Lythraceae, Magnoliaceae, Malvaceae, Meliaceae, Moringaceae, Myrsinaceae, Myrtaceae, Naucleaceae, Oleaceae, Oxalidaceae, Palmae, Rhamnaceae, Rosaceae, Rubiaceae, Rutaceae, Salicaceae, Sapindaceae, Simaroubaceae, Staphyleaceae, Symplocaceae, Theaceae, Umbelliferae, Verbenaceae, Vitidaceae, Xanthophyllaceae.

All the genera discussed here are predominantly Oriental, though Actias, Antheraea. Cricula and Samia extend to the Moluccas, and Attacus ranges through the Indo-Australian tropics. In Australasia there is a small (though with very large species) attacine genus, Coscinocera Butler, and a monophyletic assemblage of genera allied to, and including Opodiphthera Wallengren (discussed by Nassig & Holloway (in press). Actias and Antheraea extend to the New World.

The Bornean fauna of 22 species includes 4 endemics (though Antheraea moultoni may prove conspecific with Sumatran and Javan taxa), 1 found more widely in Sundaland, 2 extending from Sundaland eastward to Sulawesi or the Moluccas, and 7 more widespread Oriental species. Most of these more widely distributed species are also found in Sumatra and Peninsular Malaysia; Samia 
tetrica is shared solely with the latter. Sumatra has Antheraea, Loepa, Cricula, Lemaireia and Samia species not found in Borneo (W.A. Nassig, pers. comm.). Archaeoattacus edwardsii, White and Samia cynthia Drury extend as far south as Peninsular Malaysia, which also marks the most southerly extension of the genera Saturnia and Caligula (Lampe, 1985).

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