Sir David Attenborough, the renowned naturalist, has spent his career surveying animal and plant life across the planet and sharing these adventures with millions of viewers through his filmmaking.
Attenborough, now 89, has won numerous awards and recognitions, including more honorary degrees from British universities than anyone else and multiple British film and television awards. His enthusiasm for nature is so contagious, and his imprint so pervasive, that his career studying nature in the public eye has led humans to start naming nature after him—the latest of these being a rare species of Amazonian butterfly.
A team of international researchers recently encountered what they are calling Attenborough's Black-eyed Satyr in a remote northwest region of the upper Amazon basin. The butterfly, referred to scientifically as Euptychia attenboroughi, inhabits lowland tropical forests in a small, 300-mile region that extends into in Venezuela, Colombia, and Brazil.
Shinichi Nakahara with the Entomology & Nematology Department at the University of Florida and one of the leaders of the study told Fusion that only five specimens of the butterfly have been collected since it the first discovered in 1943. He said the region where the butterfly was found "is not well explored" and that the finding "indicates further discoveries in the area."
Nakahara said he spent his youth in England, where as someone who loves insects "it is almost impossible to avoid being influenced by Sir David Attenborough."
He said he cannot think of anyone who has done a better job of bringing the natural world to the public, and that Sir David is "impossible to replace."
Andrew F. E. Neild, co-leader of the study and a scientific associate at the Natural History Museum in London, said in a statement that the entire team of researchers from around the globe were all "deeply influenced and inspired by Sir David's fascinating and informative documentaries."
"Other animals and plants have previously been dedicated to Sir David, but it makes us happy and proud to be the first to dedicate a butterfly species in his name," he said.
Sir David's first honorary butterfly comes just months after the first lizard was named after him, a colorful African species known as Attenborough’s flat lizard. In 2014, an ancient grasshopper species stuck in amber was named after the famed naturalist. A species of tree endemic to Ecuador was named Blakea attenboroughii after it was discovered in 2007.
There's actually an entire Wikipedia category devoted to "Animals and plants named after David Attenborough." The page, which has eight entries, was last updated in August 2014, making it at least two species behind.
While Attenborough is yet to comment on the butterfly naming, he is undoubtedly pleased, especially considering he has been the president of Butterfly Conservation, a group dedicated to preserving butterflies and moths, since 1998.
Attenborough did tell the Washington Post earlier this year that has a favorite namesake species, or rather, a namesake genus—a classification of organisms usually consisting of more than one species.
"As you know, scientific names have two components," he said. "There's a genus and there's a species. And there are quite a lot of species. And to have a species named after you, and attenboroughi species, that's quite nice. But to have a genus named after you is really something else."
Attenborough got his first genus title in 1993 when an extinct group of plesiosaurs, or aquatic reptiles, from the Early Jurassic period were named Attenborosaurus. Since then a new genus of flowering plants found in the jungles of Gabon was named Sirdavidia after him.
There are nearly nine million different forms of life on Earth, according to recent estimates, with the majority of these being land-based insects. A 2011 study found that 86% of all plants and animals on land and 91% of those in the water have yet to be named. For all Attenborough has done to bring attention to the natural wonders and unnatural dangers in the form of climate change and environmental degradation these organisms face, he will probably notch at least a few more namesakes before the streak ends.