In the past few years, we have seen scientists discover numerous new animal species in the country’s urban areas. The urban ecosystems are known to favor hardy weeds, junk-eaters and scavengers. Thus, it didn’t surprised many when a group of scientists discovered a range of new fly species in the already buzzing city of Los Angles.
The study that unearthed those unique fly species in LA was carried out by the members of Natural History Museum’s BioSCAN group and was later published in the widely read scientific journal Zootaxa.
For locating new species of insects, Emily Hartop, one of the entomologists in the group, along with her team, fitted specially designed insect traps outside 30 LA homes. The traps were designed both for collecting bugs and for gathering data about the areas’ weather conditions.
Hartop and her team spent three years studying the trapped flies; during this phase, the group examined flies belonging to around 10,000 different species. The majority of them were already known to science; only 30 were unknown, each of which belonged to the Megaselia genus.
The researchers took months to identify those 30 fly species and managed to do so only after studying the bugs thoroughly. Hartop, in a recent post on the BioSCAN blog, has admitted that 90% of the study was about fly genitalia.
During the study, Hartop and her co-researchers inspected each of the trapped fly species repeatedly. This allowed them to notice minute differences between them.
Then they slowly started giving funny names to each of the newly discovered species. The names had direct links with the way the genitalia of the flies looked; for instance, they started calling the fly with bunny ear-like genitalia “Bunny”. Another fly, whose genitalia reminded Hartop and her team of a troll doll of the 1980s, was named “Troll”.
Hartop made small sketches of the genital shapes of each of the new fly species discovered during the study. This made the process of distinguishing between the fly species much easier for Hartop and her co-researchers.
Here, it must be mentioned that the study other than helping researchers find 30 new fly species also helped them understand the urban ecosystem better.