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New moth found for first time ever at Walpole Park hailed as “real coup for citizen science”

A new species of moth has been discovered in Ealing’s Walpole Park by an amateur moth collector.

Barbara Mulligan has been a life long moth enthusiast and collector since she was a child and now her discovery has made headlines around the world after the Natural History Museum helped to discover more about it.

The moth has been named Tachystola Mulliganae, after Ms Mulligan.

Ms Mulligan, a retired housing finance officer told the BBC: “One thing I never thought would ever happen was that I’d find a new species.”

Having tried to find out what she found at Walpole Park, Ms Mulligan sought help from experts to identify the mysterious small brown moth. This included Mark Sterling, a scientific associate at the Natural History Museum, who went on to perform a detailed analysis including both morphology and DNA to describe the species’ anatomy.

Mr Sterling said: “What Barbara had found was an undescribed species she found this extraordinary moth which has somehow come over from Western Australia and established itself in three or four places in West London.”

He added: “And she is still the only person in the UK to have found it. This is a real coup for citizen science.”

Using small samples of the moth gave researchers with a DNA barcode that allowed them to compare the unknown specimen to a huge database containing the barcodes of thousands of known moth species from around the world. This process then revealed that the moth was a new species to science and also one that is native to Western Australia rather than Ealing.

The Natural History boffins said that while it didn’t confirm the identity of the Ealing moth, the DNA barcode told scientists that it belonged to a group of species that includes the Tachystola hemisema. This moth is found in New South Wales, Australia, and is an invasive species in California and experts say it is also likely in New Zealand and Hawaii.

The T. hemisema was first described by Edward Meyrick in 1885, whose collection is cared for by the Natural History Museum.

Details of the new moth and the journey of its discovery have been published in Entomologist’s Record and Journal of Variation.

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