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Actias Leach

Type species: luna Linnaeus.

Synonyms: Echidna Hubner (praeocc.; type species selene Hubner); Tropaea Hubner (type species luna Linnaeus); Plectropteron Hutton (type species dianae Hutton = selene); Argema Wallengren (type species mimosae Boisduval, S. Africa); Angas Wallengren (type species mimosae); Sonthonnaxia Watson (type species maenas Doubleday); Proactias Arora & Gupta (type species sinensis Walker, China).

This genus is best defined by the structure of the hindwing tail, incorporating the anal and cubital veins and vein M3, thus being supported by four veins. This character brings together all American, Asian and African pale green 'moon-moths'. Within this general theme there are variations In wing ocellus formation, the position of brown markings, and in the structure of the genitalia: the valve is usually deep, bilobed; the uncus is bifid; the saccus is usually long. In the two species discussed below selene has a domed, serrate uncus whereas maenas has a pair of horns dorsally; maenas has a complex series of spurs on the lower lobe of the valve, and the saccus is extremely long. A. maenas has one radial vein (anterior branches of Rs) less than A. selene (Arora & Gupta, 1979). Nassig & Peigler (1984) included both these species in Actias. If the group is to be subdivided, this is best done following a study of it as a whole in terms of derived characteristics rather than the somewhat ad hoc treatment it has received to date.

The larvae of selene and maenas are very similar in structure and coloration as discussed below; those of African taxa appear from the descriptions in Gardiner (1982) to be comparable also. The European monotypic genus Graellsia Grote shares the adult tailing character, but the larva is significantly different in appearance (Gardiner, 1982: plate xi) and is restricted to Pinus. Only a full study will indicate whether separation of this genus from the rest is justified or whether the more longitudinally striate appearance of the larva and the wings of the adult is a highly apomorphic development towards crypsis in the striate environment of pine foliage.

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