SPHINX OBERTHUERI (Rothschild & Jordan, 1903) -- Masson Pine hawkmoth

Female Sphinx oberthueri. Photo: © NHMUK. Male Sphinx oberthueri. Photo: © NHMUK. Fresh female Sphinx oberthueri, Sichuan, China. Photo: © Tony Pittaway, IZAS.


Hyloicus oberthueri Rothschild & Jordan, 1903, Novit. zool. 9 (suppl.): 119 (key), 149. Type locality: China, [Yunnan,] Tsé-kou [Yanmen, 28°04'N 98°54'E].

Synonym. Hyloicus oberthueri Rothschild & Jordan, 1903.

Synonym. Sphinx jordani Mell, 1922, Dt. ent. Z. 1922: 113. Type locality: China, W. Yunnan.

Synonym. Sphinx thailandica Inoue, 1991.

Note. The details for Sphinx jordani are: [Syntypes: 2 male] China: West Yunnan (R. Mell) [?MNHU]. Mell, 1922, Beitr. Fauna Sinica 2 (Biol. Syst. sudchin. Sphingiden): 57, gave the following data for two males: 1 male China: Yunnan, road from Yunnan-fu [Kunming] to Tali-fu [Dali], near Schi-tze [= Jize?], bred from full-grown larva, 25.vii.; and 1 male China: Yunnan, road from Yunnan-fu [Kunming] to Tali-fu [Dali], near Dschautschou [= Zhaozhou?], bred from fully-grown larva, end viii. He also referred to a female captured near Dschautschou [= Zhaozhou?], 9.viii. However, this specimen cannot be a syntype as the original description referred only to males. These specimens were the only ones known to Mell at that time. No type material for this taxon has been found in CMNH. The specimen labelled 'type' appears to be the female referred to be Mell (1922); it is labelled 'Tali', with the data '8.8.14'. There is a female labelled 'paratype' and '18 Gaithain' in MNHU; this is not a type.


Forewing much more elongate than in Sphinx caligineus, Sphinx yunnana and Sphinx pinastri. Colour similar to Sphinx caligineus caligineus, but the fringe as sharply marked brown and white as in Sphinx pinastri. Hindwing with stalk of veins Sc and M1 about half as long as crossvein m1-m2. Abdomen with narrow lateral white bands. Body underside paler grey than upperside. Legs similar to those of Sphinx caligineus: tibiae almost without spines; spurs short, the long apical one of the hindtibia about one third the length of first hindtarsal segment, which is itself as long as segments 2-5.

The forewing uppersides vary, being very lightly marked in some, while others bear heavy dark streaks and thick transverse lines similar to those found in Sphinx pinastri. Many, but not all, individuals are also more grey when freshly emerged, but this fades to light brown after a few days as per the examples below.

In the male genitalia, uncus elongate, more slender than in Sphinx caligineus, slightly dilated before apex, the edge somewhat notched, shortly hooked at apex, the ventral side deeply concave. Gnathos longer than in Sphinx caligineus and Sphinx pinastri, sinuate, the lobes slender, subconical, somewhat curved apically. Valve similar to that of Sphinx caligineus, more rounded than that of Sphinx pinastri. Harpe characteristic, with two short distal processes separated by a rounded sinus, the upper process with one or more marginal teeth, the lower subconical, pointed, slightly curved, narrower and shorter than the upper. Aedeagus produced into a short process that is rounded apically and slightly curved.

Male Sphinx oberthueri, Simao/Pu'er, Yunnan, China, 23.vi.2012. Photo: © John Horstman. Male Sphinx oberthueri, Simao/Pu'er, Yunnan, China, 23.vi.2012. Photo: © John Horstman.



China: 10-19.iii (Simao/Pu'er, Yunnan); iv (Jiangkoushan, Shanxi); 7.v (Xishuangbanna, Yunnan); 18-22.v (Jinggu Yizhi); 23.v (Lijiang, Yunnan); vi (Songzishanding, Yunnan; Simao/Pu'er, Yunnan); vii (Dianchang Shan, Yunnan); 9.vii (Lijiang, Yunnan); 22-25.vii (Huili, Sichuan); viii (Goligong Shan, Yunnan); 1.viii (Taiyue Shan, Shanxi); 3.viii (Xichang, Sichuan); 8.viii (Dali, Yunnan); 9.viii (Zhaozhou, Yunnan); 24.viii (Xishan, Kunming, Yunnan); ix (Xunyang, Shaanxi).



LARVA: Full-fed 70--75mm. Very similar to the larva of Sphinx caligineus caligineus (Butler, 1877) from Japan.

Full-grown larva of Sphinx oberthueri. Image: Mell, 1922b


Pupa of Sphinx oberthueri. Image: Mell, 1922b Pupa of Sphinx oberthueri. Image: Mell, 1922b

Larval hostplants. Recorded in Yunnan (as Sphinx jordani) on Pinus massoniana (Mell, 1922b).




China: Shanxi (Taiyue Shan, 2000m; Jiangkoushan, 1600m); Shaanxi (Jiangkoushan, Liuba County, 1600m); Sichuan (Xichang; Huili); Yunnan (Simao/Pu'er; Yanmen; Dianchang Shan; Lijiang, 2000m; Xishuangbanna, 650m; Gaoligong Shan, 1500-2000m; Xishan; Kunming; Dali; Jinggu Yizhi, 900-1700m; Songzishanding, 2500m; Zhaozhou; Jize); ?Xizang/Tibet (Mutu, Namjagbarwa region, 850m).

Originally thought to be confined to southwestern China. The records from the Mienshan (= Taiyue Shan) (Danner et al., 1998) extends considerably northeastward the known range of this species.

With the discovery of Sphinx centrosinaria Kitching & Jin, 1998 in Xizang/Tibet (Thierry Vaglia, pers. comm. 2007), and the description of Sphinx bhutana Brechlin, 2015, from Bhutan, and Sphinx yunnana Brechlin, 2015, from Yunnan, it is possible that the specimens recorded from that area by Wang (1988) are not Sphinx oberthueri but one of these other species.


Central and southwestern China to northern Thailand (Inoue et al., [1996]) and west to Manipur, Nagaland and Arunachal Pradesh, India (Jatishwor Irungbam & Fric, 2021), and Bhutan (Irungbam & Irungbam, 2019).

Global distribution of Sphinx oberthueri. Map: © NHMUK.


Holarctic; eastern Palaearctic region. Pleistocene refuge: Monocentric -- Yunnan refugium.

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© A.R. Pittaway & I.J. Kitching (The Natural History Museum, London)