TUCSON, Ariz. – Researchers who helped discover a new species of Mexican butterfly are offering to sell the naming rights to raise money to fund more research.
Co-discoverer Andrew Warren is hoping to raise at least $50,000 by auctioning off the rights to name the 4-inch "owl eye" butterfly, which lives in Sonora, a Mexican state bordering Arizona.
"That would support at least two years of research for our team down in Mexico," Warren said. "Money goes a long way down here in Mexico."
According to the scientific tradition, discoverers of a new species have the say in naming it. In recent years, some discoverers have auctioned off their naming rights to raise money.
Warren said the amount being sought for the butterfly isn't out of the question, noting that naming rights for a new monkey species brought in $650,000 two years ago.
A group of 10 new fish species that went on the naming auction block at the same time earlier this year brought in a total of $2 million.
The butterfly discovered by Warren and researcher George Austin ranges as far north as Magdalena de Kino, about 120 miles south of Tucson, and is known to live in the area along Highway 16 west from Yecora, near the Chihuahuan border, to near Hermosillo.
But the discovery itself wasn't made in Mexico.
The butterfly was actually in a collection, misidentified as an example of another species, at the McGuire Center for Lepidoptera and Biodiversity at the Florida Museum of Natural History in Gainesville, said Warren.
Warren, a postdoctorate researcher specializing in Mexican butterflies, said fellow McGuire researcher Austin spotted the impostor early this year. They soon began the arduous process of determining that it was indeed a "new" model of butterfly.
After checking photos and comparing it with other known species, they determined it was a separate species. It's in the Opsiphanes group, near the morphos and monarch branches on the butterfly section of the tree of life.
It just needs a name to come after "Opsiphanes."
The auction, on the Internet auction site Igavel.com, wraps up Friday.