Why the butterfly?

Pterin molecules were first isolated from butterfly wings in 1889 by Frederick Gowland Hopkins. From the English brimstone butterfly he isolated a yellow pigment, later structurally determined to be xanthopterin (xanthos, greek for yellow). The common cabbage butterfly was the source of a white wing pigment later named leuopterin. This link between pterins and butterflies led to their unusual name (pterin) that has its root in the Greek word for ‘wing’, pteron. It is not surprising, then, to find that pterinologists (those who study pterins) are also butterfly afficiandos!

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