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A New Butterfly Species Discovered at Tirimbina!

By: Annika Keeley.

Butterflies and moths are a fascinating group of animals. They are beautiful, have fascinating life-cycles, and many are easy to observe. They play important roles in tropical ecosystems. The larvae usually feed on plant leaves which can have a huge influence on plant communities and then, both the larvae and adults become food for other animals including insects, birds, bats, as well as a large number of parasites. For these and other reasons, they are one of the better studied groups of insects and have been widely used as model organisms to study the impact of habitat loss and fragmentation, and climate change.

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In the tropics, there is an incredible number of butterfly species, but experts who devote their career to studying them, can become familiar with most species in their area. In Costa Rica, Isidro Chacón with the Instituto Nacional de Biodiversidad is co-author of “Butterflies and Moths of Costa Rica”. Since 2008, he has been collecting nocturnal butterflies in the Tirimbina Biological Reserve once a month using a light trap. But occasionally he comes upon a butterfly he does not know. Usually, consultation with other butterfly experts from the Americas leads to the identification of the species. Recently, he found a butterfly in the skipper family (Hesperiidae) that could not be identified– he had discovered a new species!

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Nick Grishin, professor of biochemistry at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center and Chair of the Board of Directors of the Butterflies of America Foundation, decided to write the scientific paper with the formal description of the new species . In minute detail, he compared the characteristics of the new species to a related species, and illustrated them with photographs. He also gave the new species a scientific name.

All organisms that are described by science, receive a scientific name that consists of two parts, the genus and the species. This newly described butterfly is very similar to others that belong in the genus Anastrus, or the “Duskywings”. The scientists who describe a new species then get to choose the species name. There are rules for choosing scientific names. They may use a word that describes the way the species looks, a special behavior, the place where it was found or they can name it after someone they respect. Nick Grishin named the new skipper species after Isidro Chacón, who collected this specimen at Tirimbina. So the scientific name is now Anastrus isidro.

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