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Native pasture looper moth

Current status

[Photo of extinct moth by P. McQuillan.]

The Native pasture looper moth (Chrysolarentia decisaria) is listed as endangered under Tasmania's Threatened Species Protection Act 1995. Like most of our invertebrates it does not yet appear in the schedules of the Federal Act, but this may change if it is successfully nominated.

What do we know about this moth?

There are quite a few records of this animal from late last century, particularly from 1880s to early 1900s. These reports come from both Tasmania and Victoria so it was not a Tasmanian endemic species. In Victoria it was recorded from the Basalt Plains to north-west of Melbourne. There have been no further sightings of it in these areas. This is not surprising as the area has become very urbanised now and the moth's habitat is gone.

Tasmanian records indicate this moth lived in grassy woodland and native grassland at Billop near Cressy, and at Epping Forest. It appears to have been fairly widespread in the north Midlands and we have a few museum specimens of this moth.

Why is this moth a threatened species?

It is threatened because it is so rare and is only recorded from a few locations.This moth had not been observed since 1904, however careful surveys over the past 15 years have been undertaken in all sites where this moth was recorded with some specimens located.

How sheep have affected this moth?

It is believed that the larvae of this moth, the caterpillar, probably ate succulent native annual plants such as native geraniums and buttercups which used to grow between grassy tussocks. The arrival of sheep in this area would have had a huge impact on the caterpillars. Initially sheep would have eaten the succulent native plants. Over time this land has become degraded, exotic species such as clover and other weeds have invaded, replacing the native grassland species which were not adapted to the pressure of sheep grazing or pasture improvements.

There is still some remnant of the grassy woodland vegetation that the moth required now protected at Epping Forest, in the Tom Gibson Nature Reserve.

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