By Josh Lancette
A new genus and species of tiger moth from Africa has been discovered by researchers from Poland and Germany. The new species, Tervurenia eloumdeni, was first found in a collection in the Royal Museum of Central Africa in Tervuren, Belgium by Dr. Łukasz Przybyłowicz, who was preparing a catalogue of world Thyretina, a subtribe of the tribe Syntomini in the subfamily Arctiinae.
“While checking the drawers with unsorted African thyretines, unexpectedly I noticed a series of four small, dark moths with reduced hind wings,” said Dr. Przybyłowicz, the lead author of an article published in the Annals of the Entomological Society of America. “At once, I realized they must belong to undescribed species.”
Przybyłowicz then borrowed the insects, but never described or published them, hoping to find more material as he visited other collections.
“The undescribed moths waited in my room for years for the ‘better occasion,’” said Przybyłowicz. “This occasion appeared in the autumn of 2014. That year I attended the Second Afrotropical Lepidoptera Workshop in Uganda. There I met Michael Ochse, the co-author of the paper. As he was also collecting thyretines, we started to exchange information after returning to Europe. In one of his emails, he informed me that he has in his collection a strange single moth from Cameroon which seems to be an undescribed taxon. After opening the image attachment, I immediately realized it was conspecific with my specimens. I told him I have four more of them, and we decided to publish our discovery.”
The finding of the new genus and species is interesting for a few different reasons.
“Taxonomically speaking, the new genus is characterized by a remarkable set of characters that widen our understanding of the morphological diversity of the group,” said Przybyłowicz. “For example, the extreme hind wing reduction and the presence of the abdominal tuft of elongate hair-like setae are characters rarely encountered within the whole order of Lepidoptera.”
These unique morphological features also have interesting implications in regards to ecology and biodiversity.
“The wing reduction and the hair tuft suggest very interesting and still unstudied behavior of moths, the nature of which is more the field of speculation rather than confirmed observations and facts,” continued Przybyłowicz. “Explaining the function of these characters may add valuable information to the overall knowledge of the diversity of moths’ behavior. The new genus confirms the need for intensive study of tropical Lepidoptera. There are still many undiscovered taxa based not only on hardly detectable molecular or morphological characters, but also showing intriguing and remarkable differences to already known species.”
The new genus was named Tervurenia in honor of Tervuren, Belgium, the city where the Royal Museum for Central Africa of resides. The new species was named eloumdeni in honor of Mount Eloumden in Cameroon, the locality of three of the paratypes.
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Josh Lancette is Manager of Publications at the Entomological Society of America.