The firefly was found in May by Joshua Oliva, an undergraduate student at the University of California-Riverside who was collecting insects in the Santa Monica Mountains for an entomology class.
Yanega said that the student was not 100% sure what he had discovered was a firefly and he brought it in for confirmation. Yangea told him he had just discovered something “entirely new to science”.
One thing that I have noticed since making the move from the midwest to the desert southwest is the lack of insects here compared to back east. While that is generally a good thing, there are some insects that you expect to see certain times of the year and grow to like.
There are some 2,000 species of the bug in the world, but the ones in Southern California don’t shine as bright as their East Coast cousins.
The fireflies are actually nocturnal beetles that feed on snails. The habitat where the firefly was found may require protection, until more information can be learned about it.
The new species was discovered in Southern California. “People are surprised that there can be new species literally right under their nose”.
This particular case, Yanega said, is also unusual in that it is rare for someone to be in a position to recognize a specimen as belonging to a new species so soon after it is first collected. “This is why it is essential for scientists to collect and keep insect specimens”.
That assessment was confirmed by experts at the University of Florida.
According to the researchers, a few dozen new species are discovered every year, internationally and locally. “It’s uncertain how long it might take to do it properly”.
Though Oliva won’t get to name the new species – that honor goes to the scientist who describes the species in the scientific literature – he is nonetheless excited.
Usually, new species sit in collections for many years before an specialist comes to acknowledge that the insects belong to an unknown species. But a month before his graduation, something unbelievable happened to him. He says that he has been absolutely fascinated by insects ever since he was a small boy.
Catching fireflies on a warm summer night is not uncommon for many kids across the United States. He attended high school in Northridge, Calif. He joined UCR in 2009.
“My discovery shows me that the field of entomology has a lot of opportunities for hardworking students”, he said. Its body is mostly black, but its head is guarded by armor marked with an orange halo-like pattern.
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