New species of butterfly found in remote part of the Andes is named in honour of Polish scientist Nicolaus Copernicus
A new species of butterfly discovered in the Peruvian Andes been named after Polish scientist Nicolaus Copernicus in honour of the 550th anniversary of his birth.
Discovered by a group of scientists from the Nature Education Centre at the Jagiellonian University in Krakow, the "Castastica copernicus" was found in the high Peruvian Andes on the edges of a forest 3,500 metres above sea level.
The species is part of the Pieridae family of butterflies, a genus which consists of 100 species and has up to now been the subject of much attention from researchers and was thought to be well documented, making the discovery of the new species a particular surprise.
Rafał Garlacz, deputy director of the Nature Education Centre said: "The discovery proves that we still learn have more to learn about many regions of the world, and only conscientious field work can help us in that process, before these regions become irreversibly destroyed by humans."
In a Facebook post announcing the discovery, the Jagiellonian University revealed that the terrain in which the new species was discovered was in a "very inaccessible part of the Andes" and the "as yet unexplored area required the use of a helicopter and the involvement of the Peruvian army."
After the discovery the research team faced the task of proving that it was an entirely new species.
Garlacz said: "The road to proving that the studied specimen belongs to a new species was long and tedious.
“It required, above all, verifying and checking all the available collections and literature for information abouts already documented species."
He added: "Every researcher discovering a new species has the right to choose its name. Although the chosen name has to fall in line with a particular codex, there is still for much freedom of choice.
“Once given, the name cannot be eradicated, its trace remains forever in the scientific literature.
“Honouring a person through borrowing their name or surname is a kind of monument which can't be overthrown."
By naming the butterfly after Copernicus, the research team not only honoured one of Poland’s most famous scientists, but also a former alumnus of the Jagiellonian University.
The university said that the Nature Education Centre currently holds four specimens of the new species in its collection, three males and one female.