Hummingbirds, Moths, & Analogous Convergent Evolution

Astonishing creatures, these nectar sucking fast movers. Every shot I got was not able to capture the wings in anything other than a blur. We’ve had the good fortune to have the company of a ruby-throated hummingbird grace us with frequent visits this summer, so when this particular friend buzzed me as I moved near the Bee Balm one day  I thought it was hummy stopping in for a feeding. Fortunately, I had my tote slung over my shoulder and could wrangle my phone out of the bag to manage a handful of shaky one-handed shots.

The species of this beauty is Hemaris Thysbe and was first described as such by Danish zoologist Johan Christian Fabricius in 1775. It’s likely that the red band on the furry abdomen evoked Thisbe’s blood-stained scarf in Ovid’s Metamorphosis for the insect lover and observer. Ill-fated lovers did not come to mind watching hummoth hover for the nectar in the balm; this passion was surely fulfilled.

The hummingbird moth and the hummingbird are examples of analogous convergent evolution. The latest common ancestor in each did not carry the hovering flight behavior and yet they each, independently, converged on this trait.

Why do I go on about this? It is a note to self to remember there are forces greater than I can imagine at work in the world. But if I get lucky, I get a glimpse.*


*Which is not to give short shrift to the imagination, nor poiesis (humans making), but to bow before mystery. Yes, awe.

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