Sauron’s Eye Inspires New Butterfly Species Name

 by Troy Hanson May 11, 2023

In this article, we’ll delve into the captivating discovery of a new butterfly species that has been named after the infamous Lord of the Rings villain, Sauron, due to the striking resemblance between the butterfly’s wing pattern and the iconic Eye of Sauron.

Key Takeaways:

  • The new butterfly genus is named “Saurona” with currently two members: Saurona triangula and Saurona aurigera.
  • Scientists chose the name to draw attention to the beauty of these butterflies.
  • Naming species after pop culture characters helps raise public interest and awareness.
  • The study involved more than 400 different species and advances in DNA sequencing.
  • Researchers hope that increased interest will aid in conservation efforts.

Discovering the Saurona Genus

The newly identified butterfly genus has been dubbed “Saurona.”

There are currently two known members: Saurona triangula and Saurona aurigera.

Many more as-yet-undescribed species are believed to exist.

A group of researchers from various institutions, including the Natural History Museum London, Florida Museum of Natural History, Harvard University, and Zoological Research Museum Alexander Koenig, have worked together to identify and classify new groups of butterflies.

Why Name Butterflies after Sauron?

Scientists opted for the name Saurona due to the black rings present on the butterflies’ vibrant orange wings.

These rings are reminiscent of the all-seeing eye depicted in JRR Tolkien’s books, which were later portrayed in the Lord of the Rings films and TV series.

By giving the butterflies an unusual name, scientists aim to draw attention to their striking beauty.

According to Dr. Blanca Huertas, who is in charge of the butterfly collection at the Natural History Museum, there’s still beauty to be found in even the most ordinary-looking species, despite them looking similar to one another.

The Role of Pop Culture in Species Naming

Pop culture has a significant role in naming new species.

Using names inspired by famous characters, scientists can generate public interest and awareness.

Other species have also been named after Lord of the Rings characters, such as Gandalf and Gollum.

In addition, other creatures such as dung beetle, frog, and dinosaur have been named after Sauron in the past.

A Decade-long Study and DNA Sequencing

A group of 30 scientists from different countries spent 10 years studying and found the Saurona genus.

Their focus was on the butterfly subtribe Euptychiina, and they analyzed over 400 different species.

The Natural History Museum’s butterfly collections, which consist of more than 5.5 million specimens, contributed significantly to the study.

Advancements in DNA sequencing allowed researchers to distinguish similar-looking species based on both their appearance and genetics.

Conservation Goals for the Newly Discovered Species

Experts hope that generating public interest in the newly discovered butterflies will lead to further knowledge about the species.

This includes whether they are endemic to a specific area or at risk of extinction.

Identifying these butterflies can result in better conservation strategies.

Dr. Blanca Huertas emphasizes that some of these species are threatened with extinction, and there is still much work to be done now that they have a name.

Numerous other butterfly and insect groups also require attention so that they can be better understood and protected.

The International Union for Conservation of Nature has previously classified monarch butterflies as endangered.

Conclusion

By naming this newly discovered butterfly genus after the Lord of the Rings villain, Sauron, scientists have cleverly utilized the influence of pop culture to draw attention to these remarkable creatures. 

With increased public interest, it is hoped that more research can be conducted, and conservation efforts can be better directed to protect these unique species, as well as others in need.

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