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30 New Species of Flies Found in Los Angeles


Image credit: Six of the 30 new fly species discovered in Los Angeles. From left to right, these specimens are: Megaselia mikejohnsoni, M. creasoni, M. francoae, M. donahuei, M. lombardorum, and M. rodriguezorum / Kelsey Bailey

Helped by local people in Los Angeles, scientists have found 30 new species of flies that have been buzzing around this big city.

The project of BioSCAN, short termed after Biodiversity Science: City and Nature, is a three-year investigation targeted on biodiversity patterns in the region of Los AngelesCounty, which is initiated by the Natural History Museum of L.A. 

As most people on our planet live in cities, it is increasingly critical to better understand urban biodiversity, because important services could be delivered by these sorts of ecosystems, such as providing oxygen, cleaning the air, controlling pest as well as waste decomposition.

The Museum has recruited local residents to be in charge of one of 30 sampling sites based at their homes. Such sampling apparatus included a continuously operating insect trap and a microclimate weather station. Three months later,  Emily Hartop, the museum entomologist and her team examined more than 10,000 specimens. As Hartop said, she had spent these months on looking at fly genitalia and called herself as a crazy fly lady. While she examined the flies, she nicknamed some flies according to her findings about their genitals and various body parts, such as bunny ears, 1980s troll dolls, or a Hokusai painting.

Eventually, Hartop and her colleagues had found 30 species which were unknown before. They all fall into to the genus Megaselia of the fly family Phoridae.

30 new fly species

Talking of meaning of these new discoveries, Hartop said that we did not pay enough attention to biodiversity at the places where we live and work, and we were not sure that some live species did exist in our backyard, or community park. In addition, those entire invisible ecosystem processes that took place in our life could have being conducted partially by creatures previously unknown to us.

As every hosting backyard has contributed to one of the 30 new species, scientists named the new flies after the hosts of the collecting sites.Phyllis Sun

The above picture depicting Glen Creason, citizen scientist looking at a field guide before the insect trap and weather station installed at his backyard.

According to Brian Brown, principle investigator of BioSCAN, he believed that people got the potential to find totally new species in any place in which they sampled, no matter it was urban or tropical area. However, it was so amazing that they could have discovered 30 new species from such a heavily urbanized area like L. A County

These findings will be soon released in Zootaxa.

Images: Kelsey Bailey (top, middle), Phyllis Sun (bottom)