New moth species named for Cherokee

out mothA new moth species recently discovered in the Southern Appalachians has a locally inspired name.

Dubbed Cherokeea attakullakulla, the moth was named after the Cherokee people who were original inhabitants of Tennessee and North Carolina and the great Cherokee leader Attakullakulla, one of six Cherokee ambassadors to travel to London in 1730.

“It’s unusual to find a new species of animal, even a moth, in today’s world,” said Cherokee Nation Principal Chief Bill John Baker. “As a tribe, the Cherokee people were always deeply connected to nature and the environment in our original homelands in the East, and having a new species named in honor of the Cherokee Nation is something I don’t think has ever happened before, but we are honored just the same. In scientific and academic circles, the naming of a new discovery is deeply meaningful and symbolic.”

Dr. J. Bolling Sullivan, a biologist who formerly worked with Duke University, made the discovery while doing a survey of the moth population. 

“It is sufficiently different from all other known species that we placed it in a new genus, created to honor the Cherokee Nation,” Sullivan said. “The species name was selected to recognize an early leader of the Nation. It also seemed appropriate to name it after the Cherokee people because the Cherokee are such good stewards of the land, and there are not many of them left.”

The Naturalist's Corner

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