A green-eyed butterfly has been discovered in Texas and Mexico, and it could be the last distinctive new butterfly species remaining to be found in the United States. Robert Robbins and Jeffrey Glassberg published a detailed description on Tuesday of the new discovery in open access journal Zoo Keys, where they noted that it could be the first time that a new butterfly species was recognized on the basis of its eye color.
At a glance, the tiny butterfly looks a lot like another common butterfly, the Gray Ministreak — until you notice the olive green eyes of the newly named Vicroy’s Ministreak. You can see the difference between the olive eyes and the dark brown or blackish eyes of the two close relatives in the top photo.
Jeffrey Glassberg is the president of the North American Butterfly Association, and Bob Robbins is the butterfly curator for the Smithsonian museum in Washington, D.C. When they realized what they had, they took the time to look beyond eye color.
As the press release politely described it, they discovered that the two species have “different wing patterns and different internal structures.”
In the scientific description, you find out that one of the different structures is the genitalia. Because the two species are so closely related and often live in the same habitat, they apparently developed incompatible private parts so that they wouldn’t accidentally interbreed.
I’m not sure all of you are ready to hear about tiny teeth on a butterfly species penis. If you want to get deeper into the dirty details, head over to Robbins and Glassberg’s very complete description, complete with photographs and sketches.
On a more romantic note, the new green-eyed butterfly species is called Ministrymon janevicroy or Vicroy’s Ministreak because it’s named after Glassberg’s wife Jane Vicroy Scott.
The new butterfly can be found from south Texas to as far south as Costa Rica in Central America. Separate populations are found on Curacao and Isla Margarita, Venezuela.
Although there may not be many more distinctive butterflies left to be discovered in North America, Robbins and Glassberg believe that there could be hundreds more species waiting to be discovered in the New World tropics and subtropics.
What do you think of the new green-eyed butterfly?
[photos by Jeffrey Glassberg via ZooKeys]