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Photographer Accidentally Discovers New Species of Butterfly in Sikkim

The Chocolate-bordered Flitter, has the scientific name Zographetus dzonguensis. (Photo: Sonam Wangchuk Lepcha)

The Chocolate-bordered Flitter, has the scientific name Zographetus dzonguensis. (Photo: Sonam Wangchuk Lepcha)

Sonam Wangchuk Lepcha from Sikkim clicks photos of butterflies as a hobby. Recently, he accidentally discovered a new species called Chocolate-bordered Flitter.

His hobby of clicking photos of butterflies led Sonam Wangchuk Lepcha from Sikkim discover a new species of butterfly. Sonam, from Dzongu in Sikkim, has been photographing butterflies since 2016. He sends the photos to the National Centre for Biological Sciences (NCBS) in Bengaluru to identify the insects and upload them on the ‘Butterflies of India’ website. In 2020, he sent the photo of a yellow butterfly with brown borders, which was later found to be a an unknown species. According to a report in The Hindu, Krushnamegh Kunte of the NCBS, said: “While reviewing Sonam’s image, I realised that this was a species previously unknown in India and that, in fact, this may be a new species."

The new species, now named Chocolate-bordered Flitter, has the scientific name Zographetus dzonguensis. It has been named after the place in which it was discovered, Dzongu in north Sikkim. Krushnamegh Kunte told EastMojo: “The Chinese species are similar to the Chocolate-bordered Flitter in general colouration and appearance but have slightly different spotting patterns. The chocolate-brown spots on the hindwing of the Sikkim species are smaller, and the white spots on the forewing are also more sharply defined. Some of the internal structures of the males also differ between the three species."

Sonam says that his hobby was not taken to kindly by his relatives and friends, and they used to tease him by calling him ‘The Butterfly Man’. However, he says that now he is proud of the moniker.

A study on the new species was published in the journal Zootaxa. The paper says that the species appears to be very local and

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seasonal, occurring below 1,000 m asl in mixed evergreen and semi-evergreen broad-leafed forests of the north Sikkim

district, Dzongu. The team expects the butterfly to be more widely distributed in other parts of Sikkim and adjoining Nepal, northern West Bengal, Bhutan, Arunachal Pradesh and south-eastern Tibet, at similar elevations.

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first published:December 06, 2021, 11:34 IST