Author Susan Benton

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Darwin's moth

Charles Darwin once received a dried specimen from Madagascar of an orchid with a thirteen-inch-deep throat. He hypothesized that a moth must exist with a tongue long enough to reach its depths. A thirteen-inch-long tongue? On a moth? Scientists laughed.

No such moth was ever discovered during Darwin's lifetime. But in 1903, a moth was observed with a startlingly-long tongue. No one saw it approach an orchid, and therefore they could not say for sure that this was the moth Darwin had believed existed.

It wasn't until 1992 that the Morgan's Sphinx Moth was seen feeding at night from "Darwin's orchid." It unfurled its rolled-up tongue, inserted it into the orchid's spur and flew forward to reach the nectar at the very bottom. In the process, it picked up pollen on its head and carried that to the next flower. The Sphinx Moth has been found to be the only insect capable of pollinating this particular species of orchids. 130 years after Darwin's hypothesis, he was proven right.

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(Photo:By Frank Vassen from Brussels, Belgium [CC BY 2.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons)

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Link...Guardian

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