New Butterfly Species Named After Famous Fantasy Character

The Saurona butterfly attests to the mystery of biodiversity.



(Williamcunha72 /

Our planet hosts beauty, color, and diversity beyond humanity’s wildest dreams. As just one example, the Smithsonian Magazine shares that there are approximately 75,000 species of butterflies worldwide – each one more beautiful, colorful, and graceful than the last. Not just that, but there are hundreds more species out there that have yet to be identified. 

View this post on Instagram

A post shared by BBC News (@bbcnews)

According to The BBC, London’s Natural History Museum recently participated in the rare opportunity to name a newly discovered butterfly genus. The team named the eye-catching genus after a famous literary villain.

Saurona: The Lord of the “Wing”
Dr. Blanca Huertas, the museum’s butterfly curator, worked with an international team to discover, describe, and name two new butterfly genera. The team chose to name one genus of butterflies, Saurona, after Sauron, the antagonist from J.R.R Tolkein’s popular fantasy series “The Lord of the Rings.” 

The team explained that in the series, Sauron often appears as a fiery, all-seeing eye. The black and orange butterfly wing markings reminded researchers of this flame-ringed eye. Additionally, they hope to draw the public’s interest with the unusual name, spurring more research into the Saurona genus.

Rare Amazonian flyers
These butterflies live in the Amazon and are, “very colorful and pretty despite (being) tiny and rare,” Huertas told CNN,. 

Huertas also described the process of discovery. Her teams explored the genetic origins of Eupychiina (a taxonomic subtribe) butterflies with the aim of revising the way their species were categorized and labeled, reported CNN.

It wasn’t easy work. “I work in the museum with the largest collection of butterflies in the world,” Huertas explained. “And I have 70,000 little brown things just looking all the same. They really challenge (scientists) because they’re very similar to each other.”

But Huerta’s team persisted, and their study led to the naming of two new butterfly genera:, Saurona and Argentaria, the latter whose name means “silver mine,” due to its silvery wings. These two genuses join a group of seven others identified in recent decades: Lazulina, Taguaiba, Xenovena, Deltaya, Modica, Occulta, and Trico.

Robert Robbins, a research entomologist at the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History, explained the significance of Huerta’s team’s study. “What this paper shows is that there are just hundreds and hundreds of species that we don’t know yet, that haven’t been named,” he told CNN. “This paper takes a very difficult and large group of butterflies, and they just amassed an immense amount of DNA information over the years and just brought it all together.”

Fighting for biodiversity
Like its namesake, Huerta foresees that the Saurona butterflies will need to take part in epic fights just for their survival. Pollution, deforestation, climate change, and invasive species are just a handful of the ecological threats impinging on the earth’s biodiversity. 

Huerta shared, “Like an army they [Saurona butterflies] have to defeat these big, massive epic battles in ‘Lord of the Rings,’ we really need an army of people — the public, journalists and government — to help to really raise attention to biodiversity loss. Many of these butterflies in this group are not going to be seen by our grandchildren. So it’s quite important to raise this statement now.”

J.R.R Tolkein’s epic describes a group of men, elves, dwarves, and hobbits who banded together to save the world from destruction. To fight the threats to biodiversity and to the planet, humans will also need to unite and form a “Fellowship of the Wing,” tackling the threats to the planet as a team.

Explore the Spiritual Meaning of Butterflies
How to Plant a Butterfly Garden
You Can Save the Monarch Butterfly by Planting Milkweed