HYLES TITHYMALI MAURETANICA (Staudinger, 1871)

GB: Barbary Spurge Hawkmoth, F: Sphinx du Tithymale

Deilephila mauretanica Staudinger, 1871, in Staudinger & Wocke, Cat. Lepid. eur. Faunengeb.: 36.

Type locality: Mauritania [Morocco and Algeria].

(Taxonomic note. de Freina (1994) placed mauretanica as a subspecies of Hyles euphorbiae (Linnaeus, 1758) on the basis of minor morphological and behavioural differences, overlooking the many more characteristics that mauretanica has in common with Hyles tithymali (Boisduval, 1834).)


BIOGEOGRAPHICAL AFFILIATION

Holarctic; western Palaearctic region. Pleistocene refuge: Monocentric -- Afroeremic refuge as part of a mauretanica/deserticola complex.


ADULT DESCRIPTION AND VARIATION

Male Hyles tithymali mauretanica, Algeria

Wingspan: 60--85mm. Highly variable, often resembling the nominate subspecies but tending to become smaller and paler towards desert areas.


Female Hyles tithymali mauretanica, near Azrou, Middle Atlas Mountains, Morocco, bred ex. l. 2014. Photo: © Pascal Régnier.

ADULT BIOLOGY

Frequents dry, rocky slopes and, in more open areas, dry, sandy river-beds with a good supply of Euphorbia.


FLIGHT-TIME

Trivoltine; April/May, June/July and August/September.


EARLY STAGES

OVUM: Identical to that of Hyles euphorbiae.

LARVA: Full-fed, 70--80mm. Examination of a large number of full-fed larvae, both in the wild and preserved in the Natural History Museum, London, clearly shows a relationship between this subspecies and subsp. tithymali (Boisduval, 1834) and subsp. deserticola (Staudinger, 1901). In fact, many larvae are almost identical to those of these subspecies; however, the colours tend to be less bright. Oddly, in some immature larvae the eye-spots are pure white (not red-centred), slightly larger than in the other two subspecies, and set in a slightly larger black surround, just like in Hyles euphorbiae. These stay large and white in such larvae, right through to maturity.


Full-grown larvae of Hyles tithymali mauretanica, Middle Atlas, Morocco. Photo: © John Tennent. Final instar larva of Hyles tithymali ?'sammuti'/deserticola, Linosa Island, Italy. Photo: © Martin Garner.

In a year with good rainfall, larvae can be very abundant from April to October. Intolerant of temperatures in excess of 36°C (de Freina, 1994).

Hostplants. Herbaceous Euphorbia spp., especially Euphorbia paralias, Euphorbia terracina, Euphorbia characias, Euphorbia pinifolia and Euphorbia nicaeensis (Rungs, 1981).

PUPA: Morphologically indistinguishable from that of Hyles euphorbiae. Overwinters as a pupa.


DISTRIBUTION

Restricted to the mountains of northwest Africa, from Morocco (Rungs, 1981; Speidel & Hassler, 1989) to Tunisia (Pittaway, 1983b); in desert areas merges with subsp. deserticola to form a cline.

Extra-limital range. None.


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