New Moth Species Uncovered in Europe: Mirlatia arcuata

by Manuel Costa
Mirlatia arcuata

The recent discovery of Mirlatia arcuata, a moth species new to science in Europe, underscores the incomplete understanding of the continent’s Lepidoptera biodiversity. This species, with its distinctive traits and unclear ecological adaptations, emphasizes the importance of continued research in this area. Pictured above is an adult male of Mirlatia arcuata. Credit: Hausmann et al.

The European Lepidoptera group, which includes butterflies and moths, boasts approximately 11,000 identified species and is generally well-studied. Nevertheless, the recent identification of a new genus and species within the Geometrid moth family suggests that there is still much to discover. This significant find was reported in the ZooKeys journal. The moth, dubbed Mirlatia arcuata, was identified by researchers from Germany, Austria, and the UK, marking a notable advancement in Lepidoptera research over recent years.

Unsolved Mystery from the 1980s

In the early 1980s, Robert Hentscholek, an Austrian amateur entomologist, collected three unidentified moth specimens in southern Dalmatia, Croatia. These specimens became part of his collection or were distributed to fellow enthusiasts. Years later, the collection was acquired by Toni Mayr, another Austrian enthusiast, who recognized the unique nature of these insects, which did not fit into any known European species or genus.

In 2022, light traps were set in Podgora, Croatia, to aid in this research. Credit: Stanislav Gomboc

Further inquiries revealed that a male and female of the same species had been given to another collector, now deceased. The female was found in 2015 at the Natural History Museum in Vienna, but the location of the other specimen remained unknown. The unique male specimen was eventually handed over to the Tyrolean Federal State Museums by Toni Mayr.

In 2022, a team embarked on a mission to classify this mysterious moth, culminating in its designation as a new genus and species in early November 2023. It was named Mirlatia arcuata, a name inspired by Latin words meaning “bringing a surprise,” aptly reflecting the unexpected discovery of this moth.

Cold Adaptation or Accidental Introduction?

Discovering a large, distinctive moth species in a well-explored area like southern Croatia is remarkable. Peter Huemer of the Tyrolean State Museums, a member of the research team, noted the limited research conducted in the region during the moth’s active period in March.

Huemer suggested that Mirlatia arcuata might be a species active in cold, winter conditions.

The habitat of Mirlatia arcuata in Podgora, Croatia. Credit: Stanislav Gomboc

The theory of the moth being introduced from other continents was dismissed for several reasons. Axel Hausmann from the Zoological State Collection in Munich analyzed moths from cold regions globally and found no similar species. Additionally, the discovery site in Podgora is not near major ports, and during Yugoslavia’s era, port traffic in Dalmatia was minimal. Furthermore, Hentscholek never collected in tropical regions, eliminating the possibility of a mislabeled specimen.

Ongoing Mysteries

Despite extensive research, the precise phylogenetic relationships of this new genus and species are still unclear. Its classification within the Larentiinae subfamily is tentative, based on certain characteristics like wing structure. Initial genetic analysis and study of the tympanal organ suggest a unique systematic position for the species. Further genomic studies are expected to provide more insights.

Very little is known about the biology of this new species, except that its habitat includes coastal rocky areas with Mediterranean flora. A detailed search led by Slovenian lepidopterologist Stane Gomboc in March 2022 yielded no results, possibly due to a shift in the moth’s active period due to climate change.

The researchers remain hopeful about rediscovering Mirlatia arcuata and gaining further knowledge about its ecological needs and life cycle.

Reference: “Surprising discovery of an enigmatic geometrid in Croatia: Mirlatia arcuata, gen. nov., sp. nov. (Lepidoptera, Geometridae)” by Axel Hausmann, Gyula M. László, Toni Mayr and Peter Huemer, 1 November 2023, ZooKeys.
DOI: 10.3897/zookeys.1183.110163

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about Mirlatia arcuata

What is Mirlatia arcuata?

Mirlatia arcuata is a newly discovered moth species in Europe, identified as a significant addition to the European Lepidoptera, a group encompassing butterflies and moths. Its discovery highlights the ongoing need for research in this field.

Where was Mirlatia arcuata discovered?

Mirlatia arcuata was discovered in southern Dalmatia, Croatia. This region, although well-explored, revealed the presence of this unique moth species, underscoring the complexity and diversity of European Lepidoptera.

Who discovered Mirlatia arcuata?

The moth was discovered by a research team from Germany, Austria, and the United Kingdom. It was initially collected in the early 1980s by Austrian amateur entomologist Robert Hentscholek and later identified by other enthusiasts and researchers.

What is unique about Mirlatia arcuata’s discovery?

The discovery of Mirlatia arcuata is unique as it represents a new genus and species within the Geometrid moth family. Its identification as a distinct species came decades after its initial collection, highlighting the intricacies of moth classification and the importance of persistent research.

Why is the discovery of Mirlatia arcuata important?

The discovery is important as it adds to the known diversity of European moths and challenges existing knowledge in the field. It shows that even in well-studied regions, there are still new species to be discovered, emphasizing the importance of continuous exploration and study in biodiversity.

Has the habitat and biology of Mirlatia arcuata been fully studied?

The habitat and biology of Mirlatia arcuata are not yet fully understood. Its known habitat consists of coastal rocky areas with Mediterranean vegetation. Further research is needed to fully understand its ecological needs and life cycle.

More about Mirlatia arcuata

  • Mirlatia arcuata Discovery
  • European Lepidoptera Research
  • Moth Species in Croatia
  • New Genus in Moths
  • Insect Biodiversity Studies
  • Larentiinae Moth Subfamily
  • Climate Impact on Moths

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MarkusB December 25, 2023 - 1:44 pm

just read about Mirlatia arcuata, how do they even find these things? and decades later? nature is full of surprises

CroatiaTraveler December 25, 2023 - 5:02 pm

been to Dalmatia a few times, never thought it’d be a place for such a discovery. should pay more attention to the little things next time!

LepidopteraLover December 25, 2023 - 10:29 pm

Wow! a whole new species, that’s incredible. It shows how much we still have to discover. Kudos to the team for their hard work and dedication.

Jenny Clarke December 26, 2023 - 2:03 am

hey, this is super cool. never knew there was so much to learn about moths, especially in Europe. It’s amazing what nature hides right?

SciGeek101 December 26, 2023 - 3:13 am

This is a great find but theres so much more to know. What does it eat, how does it live? Can’t wait for more research on this.


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