New Australian Butterfly Discovery

New Australian Butterfly Discovery

For all those budding B&B Highway biologists – the discovery last week of a completely new species of Australian butterfly makes the heart go flutter! Taxonomists – that unique species of human beings who identify and name new organisms – are not the only ones to be excited by this new discovery.

The identification of the spotted trident-blue butterfly – or cyprotides maculosus – shows that it is indeed possible to discover new species close to urban centres.

The first new species of Australian butterfly to be discovered in eight years has been identified after it was first photographed in 2017.

The spotted trident-blue butterfly is normally found in high altitudes in southern ACT and adjacent areas of New South Wales, in the areas of Namadgi and Kosciuszko National Parks.

This particular example of the spotted trident-blue was found closer to human species and the urban area of the ACT. CSIRO National Insect Collection Associate Professor Michael Braby said that the fact that we can find a new species ‘just on our doorstep’ of the ACT highlights that the inventory of our biodiversity hasn't been fully catalogued or studied.

‘It really is quite remarkable,’ he said.

As reported on news, Associate Professor Braby said it was not uncommon to find new variants of butterfly species or subspecies, but this was something different altogether.

He said discovering a new species like the spotted trident-blue highlighted how incomplete the knowledge of local biodiversity was.

"Butterflies, compared to other insects, they're pretty well known," he said.

"We estimate more than 90 per cent of the butterflies are described in the taxonomic inventory, it's pretty close to completion.’

The spotted trident-blue is only found in southern parts of the ACT and adjacent areas of NSW.(Supplied: Michael Braby)

In 2020 and 2021, Associate Professor Braby went looking for the butterflies' breeding habitat and what their food source was, and found the answers to his questions in subalpine frost hollows.

He said the spotted trident-blue butterfly made its home in frost hollows because they contained the plant they eat and lay eggs on, the hakea microcarpa.

During experiments he found the caterpillars were willing to eat plants that were related to hakea microcarpa when in captivity, but female butterflies would not lay their eggs on anything but that specific plant.

Image Credit: Michael Braby