New butterfly species discovered and named after Pokémon

Science News
new butterfly species Phaselia smettboi
A new butterfly species was named Phaselia smettboi after a Pokèmon. Copyright: D.Wanke, SMNS

A new butterfly species bears the unusual name Phaselia smettboi, a Pokémon?

Biologist Maria Werner wrote her Master's thesis on the butterfly genus Phaselia, which is mainly distributed in the Middle East to Central Asia. In the past, the high intraspecific diversity of the wing pattern within the genus Phaselia repeatedly led to misidentifications. In the study conducted, external and internal characteristics were used together with DNA barcoding and distribution data to better distinguish the species of the genus Phaselia.

During the analysis of hundreds of butterflies, the biologist discovered a previously unknown species and gave it a new name. As a child of the 90s who grew up with Pokémon, she named this species after the butterfly Pokémon "Butterfree", called "Smettbo" in German.

Phaselia is a genus of the Geometridae, distributed from Spain to North Africa, the Middle East and Central Asia. Phaselia smettboi is found in the region between Turkey and the southern Ural Mountains of Russia. The animals are nocturnal and their larvae are found on ephedra.

Like almost all other species of the genus Phaselia, Phaselia smettboi has white-brown speckled forewings with very distinctive serrated lines, which distinguishes it very well from other genuses. Phaselia smettboi can only be distinguished from the other Phaselia species by the male genitalia, which have a very spiny structure.

Original publication