Austin said that as a result of ongoing museum and field research, it is not unusual for scientists to discover several new butterfly species each year. But most often, these new species are discovered among the smaller, less remarkable butterfly groups and are frequently confusingly similar in appearance to already described species.
Austin and Warren are lead authors of the original description, scheduled to appear in Novembers Bulletin of the Allyn Museum, a peer-reviewed journal produced by the Florida Museum of Natural History.
Rather than naming the butterfly themselves, the customary practice when new species are discovered, Austin and Warren decided to auction the naming rights of the new species to raise money to support continued research on Mexican butterflies at the McGuire Center. Researchers at the Alfonso L. Herrera Zoology Museum at the National Autonomous University of Mexico are partners in the process.
The naming rights to other animal species have been successfully auctioned. In 2005, the Wildlife Conservation Society auctioned the rights to name a new species of monkey discovered in Bolivia for $650,000.
In September, an auction of rights to name 10 newly discovered fish species raised more than $2 million for conservation efforts in eastern Indonesia, setting a record for this type of event. Prices for the naming rights ranged from $500,000 for a Hemiscyllium shark from Cendrawasih Bay to $50,000 for the Pseudanthias fairy basslet.
The winning bidder for the new owl butterfly will have the name of his or her choice applied to the species formal description, following the rules of the International Commission on Zoological Nomenclature. The name will then be used for this species in all future scientific publications and field guides. Proceeds from this auction qualify as a charitable contribution, deductible subject to IRS limitations.
John Calhoun, a research associate at
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University of Florida