30 New Fly Species Discovered, in LA, This Year
Yep. 30 new species in one American city, in collected over three months, mostly in backyards.
Bioscan is a project conducted by the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles county to examine urban biodiversity as the world population has become more urban than rural. The project is based on the notion that biologists, for many years, studied “undisturbed,” regions and not those affected most by human life.
Emily Hartop, the lead author of the study which will be published next month in Zootaxa, studied over 35,000 fly specimens. As she looked at those under the genus Megaselia, she noticed that many of the specimens could be sorted by subtle differences, mostly in the male genitalia. As she began to catalog and research her findings, she realized that a majority of the groups she had found were not logged anywhere in the existing literature on North American fauna.
Puzzled by this astonishing result Hartop brought her work to England to Dr. Henry Disney, a Senior Research Associate of the University Museum of Zoology of the University of Cambridge. It was here that they combed through every piece of literature on the genus Megaselia, ever known to be published by humans. This tedious work ultimately revealed 30 previously-unknown species of Megaselia. Of course, identification is only the first step in studying these new species. As Hartop wrote in a blog post, “If other phorids decapitate ants and eat human remains, what could these 30 new species be up to here in Los Angeles?”
Image by Kelsey Bailey