Such is the interest in lepidoptery, the study of butterflies and moths, that it was believed unlikely to find a new species in the developed world. As an article on website LiveScience explains, butterflies in the United States have been very well documented. There are 81 species of hairstreak butterfly, for example, and 58 were discovered by lepidopterists in the 19th century, with just another 11 discovered in the 20th century. However, US lepidopterists are now thrilled to announce that a new species of butterfly has been discovered in Texas of all places. It is called Vicroy’s Ministreak, or Ministrymon janevicroy, to give it its Latin name.
Interestingly, according to Phys.org, examples of Vicroy’s Ministreak were given to the Smithsonian Institution in Washington over a hundred years ago. However, they were originally believed to be examples of Gray’s Ministreak, which is a much more common butterfly. It was only after careful examination of the tiny examples that differences were discovered.
These differences are most noticeably the olive green eyes that Vicroy’s Ministreak has, while Gray’s Ministreak has dark brown or black eyes. Apparently, the eye colour of butterflies fades after death, which made it difficult for Smithsonian researchers to notice the difference in eye colour. However, further research has shown that there are other differences, including slightly different wing patterns and internal structure.
As lepidopterists Robert Robbins and Jeffrey Glassberg explained in an article published in Zookeys in May 2013, Vicroy’s Ministreak can be found “in dry deciduous forest and scrub from the United States (Texas) to Costa Rica (Guanacaste) with disjunct populations on Curaçao and Isla Margarita (Venezuela).” Gray’s Ministreak is more commonly found in the United States, Brazil and Chile in both wet and dry environments.
Now that Vicroy’s Ministreak has been officially recognised, it is likely that Robbins, butterfly curator at the Smithsonian, and Glassberg, President of the North America Butterfly Association, have discovered the last new species of butterfly in North America. Glassberg’s wife, Jane Vicroy Scott, after whom the species is named, therefore has had a great honour accorded to her. Fortunately for lepidopterists hoping to find more new species, there are still plenty of butterflies and moths waiting to be discovered in the tropics.
Central and South America provide habitats of great importance when it comes to butterflies and moths. For example, more butterfly species are believed to exist in Peru than anywhere else. There are a number of reasons for this, but one of the most important is that Peru has a number of different habitats, including rainforests, grasslands, and deserts, which increase the likelihood of different species finding homes. It is also believed that, during ice ages, the tropics are the areas to which butterflies and moths flee until the climate on their home turf is suitable again.