If you find one serpent in a tree unsettling, imagine what it would be like to see three of them coiled together! Thankfully, the photographs that have everyone talking aren’t of snakes at all, but rather something else.
Millions upon millions of unique species can be discovered in the natural world. There is a place and a purpose for every species in the ecosystem.
Many plant and animal species have also evolved remarkable adaptations and survival tactics over time.
Some insects, for instance, have evolved camouflage patterns to help them blend in with their environments and evade predators, while others have created poisons to ward off potential threats.
When images of three threatening-looking “snakes” began making the rounds online, this fact gained even more attention.
When Rob Allam posted a photo to Twitter in 2021 that appeared to show three angry-looking “serpents” sheltering in a tree, it left many of his followers scratching their heads.
It didn’t take long, though, for readers to catch on to the fact that there was more to the tale than initially met the eye.
It has been determined that the apparent trio of “snakes” is actually an optical illusion caused by a cross section of wings from two different species of the Atlas moth.
Native to the Asian woodlands, this unique moth species has the uncanny ability to resemble a snake.
The Atlas moth has a massive wingspan of up to 24 centimeters (9.4 inches) and a wing area of about 160 centimeters squared (about 25 square inches).
There is a significant size difference between the wings and the body of an Atlas moth. It was initially documented in 1758 by Carl Linnaeus and is now known as one of the largest insects on Earth. The titan Atlas from Greek mythology inspired the name of this enormous creature.
When Rob posted the picture to Twitter, he also added some context:
”Attacus Atlas is among the largest butterflies worldwide, and during its adult stage, it lives only for a brief span of two weeks. Its primary objective during this stage is to lay eggs and safeguard them until they hatch, all the while camouflaging itself as a snake,” he wrote.
Many individuals had trouble at first accepting that the creature in question was a moth, but eventually came around.
“That disguise is really good,” one user wrote.
Another user expressed surprise, saying, ”How’s that top one not an actual snake? This moth would live longer if it didn’t look like I wanted to beat it with a broom.”
Atlas moths, in spite of popular belief, are feeble and shaky while taking to the air. These moths hibernate during the day to save energy for their nocturnal flights.
According to the National History Museum, the Atlas moth uses a writhing motion while flapping its wings in a planned manner to resemble the appearance of a snake’s head when it feels threatened.
One would have to travel to the tropical forests of Asia to experience the awe-inspiring presence of the Atlas moth firsthand. However, Atlas moths have been spotted in several parts of Europe and the United States.
In 2012, the BBC reported an exciting occurrence in which a huge Atlas moth was discovered resting on a windowsill in Ramsbottom, Greater Manchester.
The family that made the find initially thought the moth they had found was a bat due to its large size. It was speculated that the rare animal had gotten loose from someone’s personal collection. Unfortunately, it passed away soon after discovery.
In July of 2022, a second specimen of the Atlas moth was photographed in Bellevue, Washington. As the first time this species had ever been seen in the United States, it was a momentous occasion. Another was discovered in Sweden in 2022.
“This is a ‘gee-whiz’ type of insect, because it is so large,” said Sven Spichiger, the managing entomologist for the state Agriculture Department told NBC News.
He added, “Even if you aren’t on the lookout for insects, this is the type that people get their phones out and take a picture of — they are that striking.”
I imagine that if I were to meet this extraordinary creature, I would feel a mixture of wonder and amazement.
The first thing I would do is grab my camera because I’d want to make sure I never forget this experience. But if I saw it starting to imitate a snake’s head, I would back away slowly…
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