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New Species of Large Blue Butterfly Discovered

New Species of Large Blue Butterfly Discovered

Chinese and German scientists have found a new butterfly species in the south of China. It is the first known species of the family of large blue butterflies found to live in mountain forests.

The new species from northwestern Yunnan was discovered by Prof. Min Wang of the South China Agricultural University, Guangzhou, China and Dr. Josef Settele of the Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research - UFZ, Halle, Germany.

The large blues belong to the most intensively studied group of butterflies in Eurasia, which is probably due to their "obscure" biology and ecology: They depend on specific plants for food, which in itself is not that surprising.

But many of the known species also require a particular ant species to feed on during most of their lives as caterpillars. These specialized food requirements demand specific habitat requirements which have made them vulnerable to climate change and habitat alteration.

The discovery of the new species at this time is quite surprising. Unlike the European species (which are well-known under their scientific name Maculinea) the Chinese species, which include both the Maculinea and the Phengaris blues, are not so well studied and monitored due to lack of financial and personnel resources.

Consequently, nothing is known on the ecology of this new species, with the exception that it lives in undisturbed forested mountains, where it was discovered - which makes it different from the other large blues which over the entire range of distribution live in grasslands.

Phengaris xiushani

"Phengaris xiushani "Xiushan's Large Blue", the newly discovered species (3: male upper side, 4: under side; 5: female upper side, 6: under side) (Credit: Prof. Min Wang/South China Agricultural University, Guangzhou)"

Source: Helmholtz Association of German Research Centres

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