A new species of moth has been named after one of the world’s most popular movie blockbusters: Avatar. Discovered on New Zealand’s Denniston Plateau during a biodiversity survey by local NGO Forest & Bird this March, the new moth species is imperiled by plans for a coal mine on the plateau. The name—Avatar moth (Arctesthes avatar)—was chosen by its discoverers from a list of almost 100 entries by the public.
“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,” explains entomologist Brian Patrick, whose son, Hamish, caught the moth. “It’s just a really good analogy,”
The Avatar moth. Photo courtesy of Forest & Bird.
Set on an alien moon, the James Cameron film Avatar depicts a humanoid race living in a wild rainforest environment, but struggling to survive the onslaught of an Earth-mining company.
According to Forest & Bird, the Avatar moth will be imperiled if Australian mining company, Bathurst Resources, begins an open-cast coal mine on the Denniston Plateau. The Avatar moth is a day-flying insect that is in the geometer moth family.
In addition to the Avatar moth, Forest & Bird says it likely found a number of other new insects and spiders during their biodiversity survey.
“All the scientists agree that the [Denniston] plateau harbors 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,” Debs Martin with Forest & Bird says.
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