New Species Discovered by a Citizen Scientist

National Moth Week is one of the largest Citizen Science projects about moths in the world. Everyone who participates in NMW can help make meaningful contributions to our understanding of moth distribution and biodiversity. The importance of citizen science was recently recognized with the discovery of a new species of a lacewing by a photographer in Malaysia. The discovery was published in the Scientific Journal ZooKeys. 

Semachrysa jade sp. n. female habitus, specimen that was originally photographed and released (Morphbank: 791596). Forewing length: 15.0 mm. Photographer: Guek Hock Ping.

“New species are increasingly being discovered by the general public with interests in the natural sciences long before they are recognized as new to science by professional taxonomists and formally described. With the rapid development of digital photographic technology, professional and amateur photographers are unknowingly discovering and informally documenting new species of animals and plants by placing images of them in online image databases long before taxonomists can examine them”.  ZooKeys214:1–101

The finding of an unusual new species of green lacewing from Selangor (Malaysia) is the joint discovery by a citizen scientist and professional taxonomists. The incidental nature of this discovery is underscored by the fact that the species was initially photographed and then released, with images subsequently posted to ‘Flicker, an online image

database. It was not until the images in the database were randomly examined by the professional taxonomists that it was determined that the species was in fact new. A subsequent specimen was collected at the same locality and is described along with another specimen from nearby Sabah, found in the entomology collection of the Natural History Museum, London.

Read the article on ZooKeys

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