[Taxacom] taxonomic question concerning naming of unique species known only from painting of lost type

Stephen Thorpe stephen_thorpe at yahoo.co.nz
Thu Mar 1 23:08:44 CST 2018

It should be cited under the heading Hepialidae incertae sedis, as the original combination, i.e. Porina mairi. The main thing is just to make it clear that the correct generic placement is unknown. Saying "incertae sedis" should be clear enough. Alternatively, just state that the correct generic placement is unknown.


On Fri, 2/3/18, John Grehan <calabar.john at gmail.com> wrote:

 Subject: [Taxacom] taxonomic question concerning naming of unique species known only from painting of lost type
 To: "taxacom" <taxacom at mailman.nhm.ku.edu>
 Received: Friday, 2 March, 2018, 5:47 PM
 Dear colleagues,
 I would be interested in opinions
 regarding what to do about the genus name
 of a ghost moth for which the type has
 been lost and for which the original
 genus name is preoccupied. The only
 record of its existence is a painting
 made by the collector. Kiwi
 entomologists on this list will be familiar
 with this case.
 The moth was originally named as Porina
 mairi. The genus Porina was
 originally applied to a number of New
 Zealand ghost moths but since it was
 preoccupied these species have been
 assigned to other genera. The mairi
 species has been listed on the web
 under the genus Aoraia but there is not
 a shred of evidence for that assignment
 as the moth looks nothing like any
 known species of Aoraia (actually not
 specifically much like any known
 ghost moth other than in a general way
 for some of the wing pattern [other
 parts of the wing pattern being
 So the question for me is how to list
 this species in a world catalog of
 ghost moths. Should I just list it as
 'Porina' mairi, or assign it to a new
 genus? Which approach would be
 considered most 'professional' if that could
 be said? Please post views to the list
 so others may respond if
 appropriate. There may not be a 'right'
 answer, but at least opinions on
 this might help me decide which choice
 to make. Below is a description of
 the history of this specimen. A photo
 for the curious is at
 Many thanks,
 John Grehan
 Web site history note: New Zealand's
 largest moth may well be rarer than
 the black robin or the kakapo. Buller's
 moth, a relative of the
 agricultural pest species the porina,
 is known only from a single specimen
 caught in the Ruahine Ranges by Sir
 Walter Buller (the famous Victorian
 ornithologist) and his brother-in-law,
 Captain Gilbert Mair, while they
 were searching for huia during summer
 of 1867.
 The moth was reported to have a
 wingspan of almost 6 inches (150
 millimetres), being as large as the
 huge bright green puriri or ghost moth
 which is occasionally attracted to
 house and street lamps on moist nights
 mainly during spring. The moth was
 described by Buller and illustrated in
 the Transactions of the Royal Society
 of N.Z. of 1872, and the specimen
 then lay for over 20 years in his son's
 collection. In 1890, the moth was
 reportedly sent to the British Museum
 on the barque Assaye, which sank
 during the voyage. However, we now know
 that the Assaye sank not on its way
 to England, but on the return journey,
 and so the present location of the
 specimen (if it still exists) remains a
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