Butterfly named Dibang, 26 years later- London-based naturalist discovered species in 1987, Internet to the rescue
Dibang Valley in Arunachal Pradesh has got a butterfly species —Callerebia dibangensis — to its name, 26 years after it was found there.
Purnendu Roy, a London-based naturalist, had discovered the species in 1987 in the Upper Dibang Valley on the footpath from Anini to Mipi but did not have the means to identify it. “When I first found the species, there was no Internet and it was hard to identify the species. There were not many field guides to help us either. Very few species were well illustrated and nearly all my identification work done through descriptions. The fact that I could not identify all the species I discovered was not very surprising,” Roy told The Telegraph.
“The Internet and digital photography has created a resurgence in interest in Indian butterfly species and people can freely exchange information, share photographs and most importantly network with their peers. It was through the web that I became aware of the work of Titli Trust in the Northeast. Sanjay Sondhi, a trustee of the organisation, helped me in revisiting Arunachal Pradesh in 2012. This led me to go back to my old specimens and discover the butterfly,” he said.
Roy has a particular interest in the butterflies of Eastern Himalayas and is working as a volunteer with Ifoundbutterflies.org, a peer-reviewed online resource devoted to Indian butterflies. He said David Lees of the Natural History Museum in London compared the butterfly with specimens in the museum collection and asked him to describe it.
“The process involved determining all the possible species and separating it from them. The genus Callerebia has some species that are difficult to separate but this particular species is one of the most visually distinctive. It is one of the largest Callerebia, with very rounded wings. The background colour is quite uniform compared to some other species in the genus. The white lines on the hind wing contrast with the background colour in a very striking manner. The eyespot on the hind wing is very prominent, while the forewing eyespot is very large and clearly defined. These features make it visually very beautiful,” he added.
The finding has been reported in the current issue of the Journal of Threatened Taxa.
Roy hopes the species has a local name. “The Mishmi weaving is renowned for its extremely intricate designs and butterflies such as the Northern Jungle Queen are thought to be the inspiration for some designs.” He said the discovery of a new butterfly species has become a rare event. “It highlights the biodiversity in Arunachal Pradesh and the potential for many more new species of flora and fauna to be discovered.”