An in-depth study of the urban biodiversity of Los Angeles, steered by Exposition Park's Natural History Museum, came up with 30 never-before-seen species of flies just flapping around Los Angeles, says a soon-to-be-published paper from the research team. The program, BioSCAN, is a three-year project, but all these new species of flies were collected in just three months of sampling backyards across Los Angeles, according to science and research news site Phys.Org.
Scientists worked with 30 volunteer households, each of which agreed to put up a "continuously operating insect trap and a microclimate weather station" in their backyard to gather samples (see a video below). Every one of the backyard insect traps "yielded at least one of the 30 new species," which moved researchers to name them after the people in whose backyards the flies were found. That's why there's one new species called Megaselia mikejohnsoni.
Finding so many never-before-seen bugs is "unprecedented," and is especially exciting because it counters the idea that new species can only be found in isolated jungles or pristine islands. "I always thought we had the potential to discover new species wherever we sample—urban, tropical, anywhere. But 30 new species from a heavily urbanized area is really astounding," BioSCAN's principal investigator and NHM entomology curator, Dr. Brian Brown, tells Phys.org.
The announcement that there are suddenly new species of flies—nasty little picnic-ruiners that always, always seem to be plotting—is maybe not riveting for non-scientists. They're certainly not as cute as the bottom-heavy raccoons and odd-looking waterfowl found by the LA River. But when you consider the implications, things start to get cool. Finding 30 bugs science hadn't ever seen before in the middle of Los Angeles "means that in your own backyard, or community park, live species that we do not even know exist," writes Emily Hartop, NHM entomologist and BioSCAN report writer, in an NHM blog post about BioSCAN's progress. "It means that all of those invisible ecosystem processes that occur all around us are being conducted, in part, by creatures we know nothing of."
· 30 new species discovered in Los Angeles in first-ever intensive urban biodiversity survey [Phys.Org]
· How I Discovered 30 New Species of Flies in Los Angeles [BioSCAN Buzz]
· Watch the LA River's Busy Animal Thoroughfare in Time-Lapse [Curbed LA]