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California Adds New Species of Firefly

July 20th, 2015

California Adds New Species of Firefly

At University of California Riverside, an undergraduate student stumbled upon a bug he didn’t recognize to add to his end-of-the-semester bug collection.  The little beetle was about a half centimeter long, and a flying type, picked up near Topanga.

The student wasn’t quite sure how to identify it, so he brought it to UCRs museum specialist, Doug Yanega.

“He wasn’t 100 percent certain it was a firefly, and brought it to me for confirmation,” Yanega said. “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.”

That joyful undergraduate’s name is Joshua Oliva, and he plans to make a career out of entomology.

Although rare in western states, some fireflies do make California home.  They hide out in limited and isolated patches, usually near springs or creeks.

While discovering a new insect species is always exciting, it is not as uncommon as might be assumed by the general public.  UC Riverside has been collecting insects for the past century, and has amassed a collection of four million bugs.

Yanega pointed out, “While it’s unusual for an undergraduate student to find a new species, this has happened before, and shows nicely how a little careful effort can pay off in a big way.”

The new firefly has not yet gotten a scientific name, and Yanega noted the process of naming could take several years.

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