Washington, June 10 (ANI): A biologist has discovered a pink-winged moth in the Chiracahua Mountains in the US, which is an entirely different species from an entirely different family.
The moth was found by University of Arizona biologist Bruce Walsh, who is a professor of ecology and evolutionary biology.
His new discovery, Lithophane leeae, was found it in the Chiracahua Mountains east of Tucson.
Lithophane moths are members of the noctuid family, which often are dull colored. Walsh’s moth, in contrast, is bright pink.
Walsh discovered L. leeae while collecting one evening at Onion Saddle, at about 7,700 feet in the Chiracahuas.
Collecting involves illuminating a sheet with mercury vapor lamps. Moths are attracted by the lights and will land on the sheet.
“This large moth flew in and we didn’t think much of it because there is a silk moth very much like it, a Doris silk moth that feeds on pines that has dark wings with pink on the hind wings. It’s fairly common there,” said Walsh.
On closer inspection, though, the moth, a female, appeared to be an entirely different species from an entirely different family.
Walsh said it currently is the only known individual.
Scientists are generally reluctant to identify a new species based on one individual, but L. leeae appears so distinct from others that Walsh said it is highly unlikely that it is an aberration of an existing species.
A DNA barcode later confirmed it as a distinct species.
Walsh said that he is confident there are bound to be more. “If this thing is flying at the top of the Chiracahuas, it’s probably pretty common,” he said.
As to why L. leeae hasn’t been found before, Walsh theorized that his specimen simply emerged late from hibernation when it was caught.
Another theory is that it could be a stray from another mountain range in the region.
Walsh said there are a number of species that fly early in the summer and are rare in collections and not often seen in most years.
“We can now add L. leeae to this group of large, but quite elusive, species,” he said. (ANI)