Opsiphanes blythekitzmillerae differs from similar species in its genus by having a unique wing shape and in having slightly translucent, tawny wing scales, allowing the underside pattern to be seen from above, Warren said. Because of its coloration, it appears most similar to another owl butterfly, Opsiphanes boisduvallii, but differs from that species in many structural and superficial characters.
Owl butterflies are some of the most familiar and best-known butterflies in the world due to their large size and striking wing eyespots. The new species has a wingspan of about 4 inches and a beautiful orange color.
Surprisingly, McGuire Center collections manager Austin came across the species while curating butterflies at the McGuire Center, which holds one of the world's largest collections of Lepidoptera at more than 6 million specimens, and called Warren.
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.
John Calhoun, a research associate at the Florida State Collection of Arthropods, said some have worried that such auctions could have enormous ramifications if species are allowed to acquire commercial value, leading people to discover new species solely for the monetary potential.
However, the rigorous process required to actually publish and validate new species makes this outcome less likely, Calhoun sai
|Contact: Tom Emmel|
University of Florida