National Geographic Society Newsroom Press Releases

Uncommon dart moth joins National Geographic Photo Ark as the 11,000th species

Joel Sartore, founder of the National Geographic Photo Ark, makes history by taking what is likely the first photo of the long-toothed dart moth (Dichagyris longidens) alive. Photographed during COVID-19 pandemic, Sartore took a creative approach to continue capturing our world’s biodiversity.

Less than a year after announcing the 10,000th species to be photographed for the National Geographic Photo Ark, today National Geographic Fellow, photographer and Ark founder Joel Sartore announced the addition of the Ark’s 11,000th species—the long-toothed dart moth (Dichagyris longidens). 

Little is known about this moth aside from its range locations. Since this species was first described in the scientific literature in 1890, Sartore believes his image of the moth is likely the first photograph to show the species alive. All other existing photos Sartore is aware of show preserved specimens from museums or private collections. 

Entomologist and moth expert Bob Biagi—an editor at the online species information and identification site BugGuide—identified the species. In a note to Sartore, he said: “We have been waiting for your image for at least 130 years (the first live individual). It’s a new species for the Guide.”

Sartore doesn’t just highlight cuddly cats, impish primates, and other charismatic species in the Ark. He often touts the importance of caring for the weird and wonderful species that inhabit the Earth. The long-toothed dart moth, with its characteristic veined wings, is no different.

“People care about the furry and cute mammals, but if we can get them to care about the moths, beetles and bugs, our world would be in a much better place from a conservation perspective,” Sartore said. 

Using black-and-white backgrounds, images in the Photo Ark level the playing field for all creatures, so a tiger beetle appears just as large as a tiger. Sartore has taken this ingenious approach across the globe in his quest to photograph the approximately 15,000 species living in zoos and wildlife sanctuaries.

In the spring of 2020, when the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic became apparent, his quest seemed in peril. Sartore found himself at home for what would turn out to be the longest duration of his decades-long career. 

“Due to COVID, all that traveling— and my project—stopped,” Sartore said. “Then one night, I noticed moths circling my porch lights right here in Lincoln, Nebraska. I readjusted my process for taking photos and the result was nearly a thousand photographs of species that live in America’s backyard.”

Over the course of eight months, Sartore and two of his children, Ellen and Spencer Sartore, spent night and day in the prairies and farmlands of Nebraska and surrounding states to help document nearly 1,000 species, including the long-toothed dart moth. Video of some of the species can be found on Sartore’s YouTube page, Video Ark

To learn more about the National Geographic Photo Ark, conservation and protecting species visit NatGeo.org/PhotoArk.

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