Northern Ireland

New butterfly species discovered in Northern Ireland

cryptic wood white butterfly
Image caption The cryptic wood white butterflies have previously been unknown to scientists

A new species of butterfly has been found in Northern Ireland.

The cryptic wood white butterfly was completely unknown to scientists until its discovery.

Experts originally believed it was an existing rare and endangered breed found in English woodlands in summer.

However, it has many more chromosomes and is genetically 70,000 years old - much older than those similar in appearance in England.

Catherine Bertand from the Butterfly Conservation in Northern Ireland described the butterflies as "very delicate, pretty little things".

"Unfortunately people can't rush out and see them because they fly in springtime and have now finished for this year," she said.

"Scientists have worked very hard to prove the Irish one is different from the one you find in Britain.

"They looked at it with microscope and they discovered that the butterflies are different enough that they can't breed with one another, even though they look exactly the same."

Ms Bertand said one of the best places to view them next year will be at Craigavon Lakes nature reserve.

Members of the public are currently being asked to record butterfly sightings as part of the Big Butterfly Count.

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