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Fame Name Game

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Fame Name Game

October 26th, 2007  · stk

How would you like to have your name on a newly discovered species of Owl butterfly (Opsiphanes Group)? Skip a costly Ph.D., hours of studying, sweaty fieldwork, authoring scientific articles ... find out how!

Naming Rights for a New Butterfly Species Up for Auction

Do you fancy yourself as a budding naturalist? If so, now's your chance to make your mark on the scientific community. Win the right to name a new species of Owl butterfly, donate money to butterfly research and let your name live on forever ... all in one fell swoop.

Normally, the only way to name a new species would be to become a scientist, attend years of University classes to get a Ph.D., read (and write) a good many scientific papers, toil for countless hours in remote jungles (battling humidity and jungle rot) and be blessed with LUCK - being in the right place, at the right time. Here's your chance to skip all that and head directly past GO! Make your mark on history!

This new species of Owl butterfly is no piddling little cast-off. It's a big, colorful, showy specimen. The new species belongs to the Owl butterfly group, which are some of the best-known in the world because of their large size, striking colors and large wing eye-spots.

This is a rare opportunity. If slapping your name on this beautiful, new species of butterfly is appealing ... read on brave naturalists.

The Discovery and a Rare Opportunity

The new species of butterfly was discovered by two University of Florida researchers, George Austin and Andrew Warren, earlier this year. It's surprising that the butterfly is so large and colorful, because most of the newly discovered species of butterflies are small and unremarkable. The more noticeable ones were discovered and named long before today. This is the first time in more than 100 years that a new species has been discovered in the Owl butterfly group (Opsiphanes).

Oddly, the new discovery didn't occur in the field. George Austin came across the species while curating butterflies at the McGuire Center for Lepidoptera & Biodiversity. The center holds one of the world's largest collections of butterflies, with more than 6 million specimens.

“It is extraordinarily uncommon for such a large, showy butterfly to have escaped detection until now. This likely will be one of the last times such a large and beautiful butterfly is named.”

-Andrew Warren
(Post-Doc Associate & co-discoverer)

As per customary scientific practice, the researchers had the opportunity to name the new species of Owl butterfly. However, they decided to auction the naming rights and raise money to support continued research. Austin and Warren will be lead authors in the original description of the new species, which is scheduled to appear in November's "Bulletin of the Allyn Museum", a peer-reviewed jorunal that is produced by the Florida Museum of Natural History.

The new Owl butterfly species has a wingspan of about 4 inches and a beautiful orange color. It lives in the Sonoran Desert in northwestern Mexico.

Owl butterflies, of which there are about 20 different species - one more now ;) - belong to the brush-footed butterfly family Nymphalidae. They are found in the rain forests and secondary forests of Central and South America.

Their common name is derived from the large "eye-spots" (ocelli) on the underside of their hind wings. (They look like the eyes of an owl, when pinned with their wings closed, in a collection). It's been speculated that the ocelli are "false eyes" - an attempt to scare small birds which may prey on them.

In some species of Owl butterfly, however, it's been shown that the eyes serve as a decoy, diverting bird attacks away from the vulnerable body. But the true function (if any) of the ocelli, continues to elude researchers.

Owl butterflies typically rest on tree trunks and large branches. To humans, when seen from a distance, the eye-spot and surrounding dark areas serve as superb camouflage. However, many birds can see in the ultraviolet range and more study is needed to see if the camouflage holds for these frequencies.

Owl butterflies are very large and fly only a few meters at a time. They preferentially fly around dusk. Rather than birds, it appears that their main predators are small lizards.


Bang That Gavel: The Auction

The auction started on October 22nd at and will end on November 2nd. The time to put in your winning bid is NOW! (Right now, the bidding is at $6000 USD).

Money raised through this auction will support continued research on Mexican butterflies at the McGuire Center. Researchers at the Alfonso L. Herrera Zoology Museum at the National Autonomous University of Mexico are partners.

If having your name on a species of butterfly isn't enough, there's more. The winning bidder will get color illustration copies of the original journal publication, by the end of November 2007 (for distribution), as well as framed photos of the newly named species. Proceeds from the auction qualify as a charitable contribution and will go directly to supporting research on Mexican butterflies at the McGuire Center, in collaboration with the Alfonso L. Herrera Zoology Museum at the National Autonomous University of Mexico.

Before you crack your checkbook, consider: Although this is believed to be the very first time naming rights for a new butterfly species has been auctioned, naming rights for other animal species has been successfully auctioned. In 2005, the Wildlife Conservation Society auctioned the rights to name a new species of monkey in Bolivia for $650,000 USD. In September, an auction of naming rights for 10 newly discovered fish species raised more than $2 million dollars for conservation efforts in eastern Indonesia.

Happy Bidding!

UPDATE: 11/2/2007

The bidding closed at 1:00 PM (EST) today. The naming rights were auctioned off for a grand total of $40,800.00 USD. There were 12 bids made, starting at $5k and ending at $34k.

The winning bidder's username was "TA246274" (whatever that means). Whoever it is, I doubt that the new butterfly will be named TA24-philaeopterna.

If I find out what the final name is ... I'll post it here. ;)

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Updated: 3-Nov-2007
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1.flag Keladry0alanna Comment
The common name is Minerva owl butterfly, and the scientific one is Opsiphanes blythekitzmillerae.