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New species named after Hollywood blockbuster

New species named after Hollywood blockbuster

The new species of day-flying moth found during Forest & Bird’s Denniston BioBlitz in March will be named after the world’s most successful movie Avatar, scientist Brian Patrick announced today.

Arctesthes avatar, or more commonly the Avatar moth, is a fast and low-flying striped moth that was discovered by Wildlands entomologist Brian and soon after caught by his son Hamish during the species scavenger hunt on the West Coast’s Denniston Plateau in March.

Brian, Hamish and Forest & Bird opened naming rights to the public to raise awareness about the plans to coal mine on the Denniston

Plateau where the new species was found.

The father and son duo judged the winner from nearly 100 entries and although tempted by “Denniston survivor” and “Arctesthes bioblitzia”, Brian said the Avatar moth was a clear winner. “It was by far the best one. It’s a novel name and the movie is about a mining company that threatens to devastate a human-like species that’s living in harmony with nature. It’s just a really good analogy.”

The movie parallels the real life threat to the environmentally unique plateau as Australian mining company Bathurst Resources plans to open-cast mine on Denniston Plateau. If it goes ahead, it would be the country’s largest open-cast mine on public conservation land. Forest & Bird is appealing the consents and is working to save the plateau and have it made into a reserve.

The Avatar moth is just one of the significant finds during the BioBlitz weekend that saw 150 volunteers, including top scientists, scour the plateau in search of unusual plants and animals.

Other new species discovered are likely to include another moth, beetle, wingless wasp and three spiders. Forest & Bird Top of the South Field Officer Debs Martin says discovering the new species underscores the ecological importance of the area and the urgent need to protect it from mining.

“All the scientists agree that the plateau harbours life, especially little life, that is either not known or is relatively uncommon elsewhere. Denniston Plateau provides a mainland island habitat that we’re only just discovering,” she says.


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