The European wood white butterfly (Leptidea sp.) consists of three distinct species, instead of two "siblings" as previously thought, explains a study published in Nature Communications this week. This discovery of a new species highlights how a widespread and highly studied species can still provide discoveries in speciation and diversity.
Twenty years ago it was found that the Leptidea butterfly hid a cryptic species — a species which is reproductively isolated from the other but looks virtually identical — consisting of L. sinapis and L. reali. Roger Vila and colleagues show, using DNA and morphological data, that these so-called twins are in actual fact a triplet of cryptic species, now including L. juvernica stat.nov.
Uncovering such cryptic biodiversity helps explain patterns of evolution and ecosystem processes, as well as having implications for nature conservation.