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Two new species of butterfly were discovered in Russia. Initially it was believed that the new species were already in the books. But after a twenty year study concerning all butterflies in Russia two researchers confirm the two species as new. These recently discovered species are not just special for being discovered recently. The researchers also noticed that these two new species are genetically peculiar, as both species have forty six chromosomes.

The species were discovered by Vladimir Lukhtanov who is an entomologist and evolutionary biologist at the Zoological Institute in St. Petersburg, Russia and Alexander Dantchenko who also works a an entomologist and chemist at Moscow State University. One of the butterfly specimens that these two researchers found has been named the South-Russian blue (Polyommatus australorossicus). It was found flying over the Caucasus Mountains in southern Russia. The second specimen was found in the same area and it is named Azerbaijani blue (Polyommatus aserbeidschanus). Initially, the two scientist thought that these “blue” butterflies had already been discovered and catalogued. But when these specimens were viewed under a microscope it was discovered that they possessed forty six chromosomes. This is the normal amount of chromosomes for humans, but it is too many for this particular group of butterflies.

The genetic difference belonging to these butterflies may have gone under the radar, but luckily Dr. Lukhtanov had spent twenty years studying the chromosomal differences in Russian butterflies. The researchers also learned that the caterpillar larva of butterflies feed on different but similar plants when they become butterfly adults. This means that certain butterflies can now be protected and saved from extinction by preserving the plants that they feed on, or making the plants more available in their respective habitats. According to Dr. Lukhtanov, this study contributes greatly to understanding biodiversity and the “mechanisms of biological evolution”.

Do you think that genetic sequencing should be done before differentiating species?


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