Guwahati: At 30, Sonam Wangchuk Lepcha never thought that he could spot a butterfly species new to science. Yet today, he stands corrected. 

Zographetus Dzonguensis, a butterfly species new to science, was found in the Namprickdang area of Noom Panang Village in upper Dzongu, North Sikkim, a stronghold of the indigenous Lepchas.

The team of researchers who discovered the species – including Krushnamegh Kunte, Sonam Wangchuk Lepcha, Tarun Karmakar, and Dipendra Nath Basu – have proposed the English name ‘Chocolate-bordered Flitter’ as it has a chocolate coloured border around both the wings. A study on the new species was published in the peer-reviewed scientific journal Zootaxa.

“We named this species the Chocolate-bordered Flitter based on the chocolate-brown borders of its bright yellow wings,” Krushnamegh Kunte, associate professor at the National Centre for Biological Sciences, told EastMojo

He said the Chinese species are similar to the Chocolate-bordered Flitter in general colouration and appearance but have slightly different spotting patterns. The chocolate-brown spots on the hindwing of the Sikkim species are smaller, and the white spots on the forewing are also more sharply defined. Some of the internal structures of the males also differ between the three species.

“I never ever thought that I could come up with such a finding in my life. It’s a very big achievement for our state Sikkim and we all should be proud,” Lepcha told EastMojo.

Lepcha has, in fact, recorded more than 350 butterfly species from the Dzongu area, also believed to be one of the best butterfly destinations in Sikkim.

Butterflies are called Thamblyok in the Lepcha language and Putali in Nepali.

“I feel very proud to be a part of this butterfly world from Dzongu. It was very difficult for me in the community to take up this activity and people used to say many things such as just roaming around the Dzongu area carrying a camera and taking photographs of butterflies,” Lepcha said.

“They used to tease me and call me ‘Butterfly Man’, but today I feel proud of myself when they say Butterfly Man. I take it in a positive way and that gives me more power,” he said.

This is the second butterfly species new to science from the Northeast after 2015. Banded kit was found from Namdapha by Krushnamegh Kunte, who is the corresponding author of this paper too.

“The interesting thing about this new species is that it is a low elevation species,” Kunte, associate professor at the National Centre for Biological Sciences told EastMojo.

The species appears to be very local and seasonal, occurring below 1,000 metres in mixed evergreen and semi-evergreen broad-leaved forests of North Sikkim District. So far as known, it is active on sunny days from early morning to mid-day. It has largely been observed feeding on bird droppings in shaded stream beds.

The first sightings of this species were in August 2016. Recent sightings were from the last week of August to mid-September 2020 and 2021. Sonam  saw a total of 18 individuals of the species in Namprikdang village, North Sikkim District,   at altitude of approx. 870m, in August and September 2020 and 2021, of which five individuals were photographed.

The genus Zographetus Watson, 1893  is distributed in the Oriental Region from the Himalaya and north-eastern India through southern China, Indo-China, and the Malay Peninsula to the Philippines, Sulawesi and the Lesser Sunda Islands. Thirteen species are known so far. In India, two species are recorded: (a) Z. satwa, which occurs from Kumaon eastward into the Himalaya and NE India, extending to Myanmar, Indo-China, Thailand, Peninsular Malaysia, Sumatra and Java, and (b) Z. ogygia, which occurs in India in the Western Ghats, Eastern Himalaya and NE India, extending to Myanmar, Indo-China, Thailand, Peninsular Malaysia, Sumatra, Java, and Borneo.

The species is very similar to two recently described species– Z.pangi from Guangdong and Z.hainanensis from Hainan in China.

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