In 2017, Australian ornithologist Greg Kerr happened to photograph a new butterfly for the first time in the Fiji Islands.
Kerrer was working on Operation Wallacea - an international organization that supports school students in science projects - when he first photographed this amazing butterfly on Vanua Levu Island in Fiji. He immediately sent the image for identification.
Only at the beginning of this year, it was confirmed that it was a new species. John Tennent, scientist at the Museum of Natural History of the University of Oxford (United Kingdom) made a second trip to the Fiji Islands to corroborate the discovery
The new species was named Papilio natewa, after the Natewa peninsula of Vanua Levu Island where it was found.
“It is amazing to have discovered such an unusual and large new butterfly in a place that we thought was well known”, explains Tennent, a specialist in Pacific butterflies. The description of the new species was published this month in the journal Entomologischer Verein Apollo.
For this expert, who for the last 25 years has spent long periods in the Pacific in the Solomon Islands and in eastern Papua New Guinea and has discovered and named more than 100 new species and subspecies of Lepidoptera, the finding of P. natewa is the "Most spectacular".
And this is because until now only two species of these large and showy butterflies of the so-called papilli have been known in this part of the Pacific, and only one in Fiji.
"Because they are large, striking and beautiful in appearance, papillionids have been studied intensively for over 150 years", says James Hogan, manager of butterfly collections at the Oxford University Museum of Natural History.
“Finding a new species like this in a small, well-studied area like the Fiji Islands and on top of it different from the rest of its family is truly exceptional. For John Tennent, Greg Kerr and the rest of the team, this truly is a unique discovery. "Hogan adds.
The butterfly's hideout
According to the researchers, this species has remained hidden for so long due to its habits and the geological history of the islands.
This papilio seems to live exceptionally in the forest, and spends most of its life immersed in the luxuriance of the trees at more than 250 meters above sea level, and in lands with restricted access."The key to finding new and interesting things is to just go and observe", Tennent concludes.
With information from: