Joshua Oliva, a 24 year old student at the University of California, Riverside, discovered a new species of firefly while working on a college assignment that involved collecting insects.
Doug Yanega, senior scientist over at the university’s Entomology Research Museum, gave a statement informing that Oliva reached out to him for confirmation as the undergrad wasn’t initially sure whether or not what he had found was indeed a firefly.
Yanega went on to add that “I know the local fauna well enough that within minutes I was able to tell him he had found something entirely new to science. I don’t think I’ve seen a happier student in my life”.
Oliva gave a statement of his own, echoing the same feeling by saying that “I felt I finally did something that mattered”.
The senior scientist shared that contrary to popular belief, there are thirty something (30+) species of fireflies in Southern California. Not all said species glow, but they are all known for being carnivores that feed on snails. They typically live close to springs and seeps, in small populations, and are highly localized, wondering only around spots that can provide them with food.
The World Authorities on Fireflies, over at the University of Florida, have already confirmed Yanega assessment that the creature was a firefly, however progress will most likely be slow, as the senior scientist was quick to point out that naming a newly discovered species of fireflies can take years.
Oliva, on the other hand, said that if they would allow him to name it, he’d name it after his mother who’s been a great help to him throughout his studies.
One of the main reasons why Yanega and Oliva have made the announcement so soon after the discovery is that they are worried about the creatures and are trying to bring them into public attention for help. Yanega explained that the insects most likely have a very restricted distribution, and that since Oliva was able to find them so easily, their habitat may be in need of some degree of protection.
The senior scientist pointed out that the discovery of new species isn’t as uncommon as people might think. Dozens of new insect species are being discovered by researchers over at UC Riverside on a yearly basis. What is special about this particular discovery is that it was made by an undergrad student, which is uncommon.
Image Source: entomologytoday.org