Los Angeles just got a lot more diverse – not from an influx of new immigrants, but via the discovery of 30 new insect species living there. A new paper recently published in the journal Zootaxa revealed the results of the first urban biodiversity study of this scale: 30 new species of flies inside a single genus. This discovery is a unique accomplishment for a single research paper, and it’s made even more interesting by the fact they were all found within urban Los Angeles.
According to Phys.org, the discovery of these 30 species found within the genus Megaselia of the fly family Phoridae was made by researchers from the BioSCAN Project at the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County (NHM), who are conducting a three-year investigation of patterns of biodiversity the greater Los Angeles area, based on a sampling of insects – the world’s most diverse form of animal life.
Researchers drew on local participants for help, with LA residents hosting 30 sampling sites where samples were collected via a continuously-operating insect trap monitored by a microclimate weather station. Each household’s samples collected at least one of the 30 new insect species, so researchers decided to name each one of them after the resident in whose backyard that species was found.
The results of the work were surprising even to the scientists who worked on it. “I always thought we had the potential to discover new species wherever we sample—urban, tropical, anywhere,” said Dr. Brian Brown, curator of entomology at NHM, according to Phys.org. “But 30 new species from a heavily urbanized area is really astounding.”
Phys.org notes that this project is yielding “an unprecedented biodiversity collection, consistently accumulated across space and through time, curated for permanent research and availability at NHM.”
Since cities are now home to much of the world’s population, the ecology of cities is an increasingly important focus for researchers. That’s because learning how urban ecosystems work and improving urban biodiversity is key to understanding how humans can survive on an ever-changing planet.
Image via BioSCAN