Newly Discovered Appalachian Moth Named after Cherokee Chief

A new species of moth discovered in the Appalachian Mountains has been named after Attakullakulla, a Cherokee chief who lived in the region in the 1700s. The new species, Cherokeea attakullakulla, is described in a special issue of the journal ZooKeys.

In 1958 a professor from Cornell University, Dr. John G. Franclemont, was studying some of the insects he collected at the Highlands Biological Station in Macon County, North Carolina when he found a couple of specimens that seemed different. Similar specimens were not recorded again for four decades until Dr. J. Bolling Sullivan III, now a retired biologist who formerly worked with the Duke University Marine Lab in Beaufort, North Carolina, encountered numbers of this same insect while conducting biological inventories in the mountainous regions of the western part of the state.

Print of the Cherokee ambassadors in England in 1730. Attakullakulla is in the center, identified with an alternative spelling of his name, “C Clogoittah.” Image © Trustees of the British Museum.

Recently Dr. Sullivan teamed up with Eric Quinter, a retired entomologist from the American Museum of Natural History in New York City, who for several decades has been studying this group of moths. Dr. Quinter’s intensive work in the southeastern United States focused on a unique habitat there, called canebrakes. He has revealed the presence of at least two dozen species of moths and butterflies — many unknown to science — whose caterpillars either exclusively feed upon or are associated with the native bamboo species constituting these canes.

The result of their collaboration is the naming of this newly discovered moth to honor the Cherokee Nation and Chief Attakullakulla, who was one of six Cherokees who traveled as ambassadors to London in 1730.

“Fortunately, today much of this wondrous place and its extraordinarily diverse biota remains preserved as the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, and the memory of those who first settled there remains immortalized in a tiny creature oblivious to it all,” Dr. Quinter said.

Read more at:

A new apameine genus and species from the southern Appalachian Mountains, USA (Lepidoptera, Noctuidae, Noctuinae)

Attakullakulla Biography from the Tennessee Encyclopedia of History and Culture

Attakullakulla Biography from NCpedia

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