New species of butterfly discovered by Andes expedition

A team of explorers led by scientists from the Natural History Museum in London has discovered an entirely new species of butterfly in South America.

The medium-sized, coffee-coloured insect with eyespots on its hind wings was discovered during the first manned exploration of a remote section on the northern tip of the Andes mountain range.

Idioneurula donegani was hailed as "an amazing discovery" by Blanca Huertas, the butterfly curator at the Natural History Museum, who led the expedition to the peaks of Colombia's Serrania de los Yariguies range.

"Discovery of unseen species of insect are more common than with many other types of animal," she said. "But for any biologist it's exhilarating to find an entirely new species especially one that survives in environments where you wouldn't expect to find them."

Speaking to The Independent yesterday, Ms Huertes refused to be drawn on whether another apparently new species of insect her team discovered on the expedition was also a butterfly. "Further tests have to be carried out before we can be certain that we have another species of insect as well," she said. "But I'm hopeful." If, following examination, the second specimen is also found to constitute an entirely new species of butterfly, the twin find will signal a major breakthrough in scientific understanding of the winged creatures worldwide.

"What's so fabulous about this discovery is that we would never have imagined butterflies could survive at this sort of altitude," said Ms Huertes. "Obviously when you enter unseen areas you have hopes of making exciting discoveries, but this surpasses our expectations. It means butterflies can be far more resilient and adaptable than we might have previously thought."

Although the terrain is filled with ferns, orchids and palms, it was thought to be highly unlikely that butterflies could thrive that far above sea-level.

There are more than 20,000 known species of butterfly, 40 per cent of which live in South America. The most recent discovery is not found anywhere else in the world.

The discoveries came during an expedition by an Anglo-Colombian team to the remotest heights of the Andes Mountains an area thought never to have been visited by humans before. After being taken by helicopter to an isolated peak more than 3,000m high, the team trekked through difficult conditions for more than a week.

The survey of the remote area led instantly to the creation of a national park by the Colombian government, which has come under sustained pressure in recent years from environmental groups that are concerned by the effects of rapid industrialisation on threatened species in the region.

"Butterflies and other insects have been in great danger throughout the continent," said Ms Huertes. "The cattle and crop farming that's been driving South America's agricultural growth has also been threatening to drive some species off the map."

Last year, the same Anglo-Colombian team, also led by Ms Huertes, was responsible for the discovery of the Yariguies brush finch, a fist-sized, multi-coloured bird named after the Indian tribe that once inhabited that area.

The announcement of their latest discovery comes only days after scientists in New Guinea announced the discovery of two mammalian species. A giant rat five times the size of its common cousin, and a pygmy possum thought to be one of the world's smallest marsupials were both found in a region long described by scientists as a "lost world".

Suggested Topics
PROMOTED VIDEO
Arts and Entertainment
Standing the test of time: Michael J Fox and Christopher Lloyd in 'Back to the Future'
filmReview: A week late, Secret Cinema arrives as interactive screening goes Back to the Future
News
Chancellor George Osborne, along with the Prime Minister, have been 'complacently claiming the economy is now fixed', according to shadow Chancellor Ed Balls
i100... which is awkward, because he is their boss, after all
Travel
travel
Arts and Entertainment
Sydney and Melbourne are locked in a row over giant milk crates
artCultural relations between Sydney and Melbourne soured by row over milk crate art instillation
Arts and Entertainment
Adèle Exarchopoulos and Léa Seydoux play teeneage lovers in the French erotic drama 'Blue Is The Warmest Colour' - The survey found four times as many women admitting to same-sex experiences than 20 years ago
filmBlue Is The Warmest Colour, Bojack Horseman and Hobbit on the way
Arts and Entertainment
Preparations begin for Edinburgh Festival 2014
Edinburgh festivalAll the best shows to see at Edinburgh this year
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
News
i100
News
Kenny Ireland, pictured in 2010.
peopleBenidorm, actor was just 68
Environment
View from the Llanberis Track to the mountain lake Llyn
Du’r Arddu
environmentA large chunk of Mount Snowdon, in north Wales, is up for sale
Arts and Entertainment
arts + ents
News
Morrissey pictured in 2013
people
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Renewable Energy Construction Manager

£40000 - £50000 Per Annum: The Green Recruitment Company: The Green Recruitmen...

Senior Wind Energy Due Diligence Project Manager

£50000 - £60000 Per Annum: The Green Recruitment Company: The Green Recruitmen...

Offshore Wind Project Engineer

£40000 - £50000 Per Annum: The Green Recruitment Company: The Green Recruitmen...

Subsea Proposals Engineer

£50000 - £55000 Per Annum: The Green Recruitment Company: The Green Recruitmen...

Day In a Page

Dress the Gaza situation up all you like, but the truth hurts

Robert Fisk on Gaza conflict

Dress the situation up all you like, but the truth hurts
Save the tiger: Tiger, tiger burning less brightly as numbers plummet

Tiger, tiger burning less brightly

When William Blake wrote his famous poem there were probably more than 100,000 tigers in the wild. These days they probably number around 3,200
5 News's Andy Bell retraces his grandfather's steps on the First World War battlefields

In grandfather's footsteps

5 News's political editor Andy Bell only knows his grandfather from the compelling diary he kept during WWI. But when he returned to the killing fields where Edwin Vaughan suffered so much, his ancestor came to life
Lifestyle guru Martha Stewart reveals she has flying robot ... to take photos of her farm

Martha Stewart has flying robot

The lifestyle guru used the drone to get a bird's eye view her 153-acre farm in Bedford, New York
Former Labour minister Meg Hillier has demanded 'pootling lanes' for women cyclists

Do women cyclists need 'pootling lanes'?

Simon Usborne (who's more of a hurtler) explains why winning the space race is key to happy riding
A tale of two presidents: George W Bush downs his paintbrush to pen father’s life story

A tale of two presidents

George W Bush downs his paintbrush to pen father’s life story
Restaurateur Mitch Tonks has given the Great Western Pullman dining car a makeover

The dining car makes a comeback

Restaurateur Mitch Tonks has given the Great Western Pullman dining car a makeover
Gallery rage: How are institutions tackling the discomfort of overcrowding this summer?

Gallery rage

How are institutions tackling the discomfort of overcrowding this summer?
Louis van Gaal has £500,000 video surveillance system installed to monitor Manchester United players

Eye on the prize

Louis van Gaal has £500,000 video surveillance system installed to monitor Manchester United players
Women's rugby: Tamara Taylor adds fuel to the ire in quest to land World Cup

Women's rugby

Tamara Taylor adds fuel to the ire in quest to land World Cup
Save the tiger: The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

With only six per cent of the US population of these amazing big cats held in zoos, the Zanesville incident in 2011 was inevitable
Samuel Beckett's biographer reveals secrets of the writer's time as a French Resistance spy

How Samuel Beckett became a French Resistance spy

As this year's Samuel Beckett festival opens in Enniskillen, James Knowlson, recalls how the Irish writer risked his life for liberty and narrowly escaped capture by the Gestapo
We will remember them: relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War

We will remember them

Relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War
Star Wars Episode VII is being shot on film - and now Kodak is launching a last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

Kodak's last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

Director J J Abrams and a few digital refuseniks shoot movies on film. Simon Usborne wonders what the fuss is about
Once stilted and melodramatic, Hollywood is giving acting in video games a makeover

Acting in video games gets a makeover

David Crookes meets two of the genre's most popular voices