ISSN: 1391 - 0531
Sunday February 24, 2008
Vol. 42 - No 39

Lanka gets new butterfly

By Tahnee Hopman

Dr. van der Poorten

In over 40 years of studying butterflies, the discovery of a hitherto unknown species of butterfly comes as an achievement for veteran lepidopterist Dr. Michael van der Poorten. Over the past few days, Dr. van der Poorten has found a male and a female as well as some eggs of the new butterfly in the Wariyapola area. “When I first saw it, I thought that the butterfly was a kind of Lemon Emigrant. But on closer inspection, I found that this butterfly was quite different to the Lemon Emigrant, its closest cousin,” he said.

The upper side of the hind wing of this butterfly is a cadmium yellow, and the upper side of its forewing is chalk white. This is the butterfly currently identified as the Catopsilia Scylla, the newest species of butterfly identified in Sri Lanka- just five days ago. It belongs to the family Peridae, genus Catopsilia.

“There remains much more to be done,” says Dr. van der Poorten. The Catopsilia Scylla lays its eggs on a roadside plant , the Cassia Surattensis. “Observing the growth of the butterfly, the caterpillar stage, will include observing its feeding patterns, the time it takes to mature, how and where the mature butterfly lays its eggs,” explained Dr. van der Poorten. “ The life history of the butterfly has to be observed carefully to identify its species accurately. Considering the lifespan of the butterfly, this should take a month or two.”

The discovery itself has been immensely exciting, he says, considering that in Sri Lanka the last new species was discovered over 60 years ago. Having completed around 35 years of work in this field in Canada, Dr. van der Poorten has been in Sri Lanka over the past few years, and is now writing a comprehensive book on the butterflies of Sri Lanka.

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