NATION

New Butterfly Species Discovered In Natewa

Scientists have discovered a new butterfly species in Nate­wa Peninsula in Cakaudrove. Since the discovery was made at Natewa Peninsula, researchers have aptly named it Papilio Na­tewa, bringing to three
17 Nov 2018 10:12
New Butterfly Species Discovered In Natewa
A swallowtail butterfly. Photo: Greg Kerr

Scientists have discovered a new butterfly species in Nate­wa Peninsula in Cakaudrove.

Since the discovery was made at Natewa Peninsula, researchers have aptly named it Papilio Na­tewa, bringing to three the total number of swallowtail butterflies known from the region.

Swallowtail butterflies are large, colourful butterflies in the family Papilionidae, and include over 550 species. Though the majority are tropical, members of the family inhabit every continent except Ant­arctica.

The butterfly was first found and photographed by the ornithologist Greg Kerr, who was working in Na­tewa.

Specialists around the world were puzzled when Mr Kerr’s photo­graph was sent for identification.

It was not until earlier this year, during a second trip to Fiji, that it was confirmed that the species was new to science by John Ten­nent, Honorary Associate at Oxford University Museum of Natural His­tory, and Scientific Associate of the Natural History Museum, London.

Mr Tennent said the discovery of a new swallowtail species in Fiji was hard to believe.

“The new swallowtail is a big but­terfly, recognisable from a distance. There were previously only two swallowtail butterflies known from the region, endemic to Fiji and Sa­moa,” he said.

“Both are large but dull in ap­pearance. To find a third as large and colourful and unusual, with its long, sword-like tails really is remarkable.”

True to its name, the swallowtail butterfly has two elongated edges projecting from the hind wings, which trail as it flutters through the canopy of the forest in which the species was found.

It has striking black and white zigzags emblazoned on the top or its wings, and a cream and black speckled pattern underneath. All of this is gilded with soft yellows and blue eye spots.

“The insect was regularly spotted along a former logging track that was bounded by forest gardens and deep, undisturbed primary rainfor­est, it is a forest butterfly,” Mr Ten­nent said.

“I arrived in July 2018, but it was not until early August that I found its probable true habitat and was able to make observations on its behaviour, habitat and ecology,” he said.

He said there are still much to know about the Natewa Peninsula that remains a mystery, including almost everything about its natural history.

“The early stages of its life and even its host plant remain un­known and figuring that out will be a big job for someone in the future.”

Edited by Ranoba Baoa

Feedback: nacanieli.tuilevuka@fijisun.com.fj



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