New Species Found via Flickr

Little over a year ago, an entomologist was browsing bug photos on the photosite Flickr –when a particular image gave him serious pause:

 

 

Little over a year ago, an entomologist was browsing bug photos on the photosite Flickr –when a particular image gave him serious pause:

 

 

(Photo Credit: Hock Ping Guek)

 

 

California Department of Agriculture’s Shaun Winterton knew what green lacewings looked like; yet the wing patterns on this specimen was something entirely new.  Sending the photo to some of his peers, several responded as Winterton’s hunch had suspected: this creature was new to science.  Winterton immediately emailed the photographer, Hock Pink Guek, to determine the lacewing’s origin.  Guek had spotted the creature while hiking Malaysia’s Selangor National Park.  

A problem remained in classifying the lacewing in the photo as a new species –scientific protocols require a specimen to be examined and placed in a museum before it can be considered exemplary of a unique species.

 

 

 

 

(Photo Credit: Hock Ping Guek)

 

Flash forward to late January of this year: Guek encounters another lacewing. This time, he catches it and brings it home with him.  He contacted Winterton, who instructed him to send the insect to Steve Brooks, of London’s Natural History Museum.  Brooks had also been contacted by Winterton, told to expect the specimen.  Upon reviewing the green lacewing, Brooks discovered that it was indeed a unique species. Concomitantly, he learned that the museum actually already had a specimen of this sort, which had been uncategorized and unclassified for decades, collecting dust in their collection, before this discovery.  According to the research paper, “the discovery of a new species of Semachrysa is a direct result of the incidental interaction of photographer/citizen scientist, online image database and professional scientists.”  

Indeed.  Even the way that the scientific article was composed is a testament to advancements in social media and technology; it was written by Winterton, Guek, and Brooks in a tri-continental collaboration made feasible by Google Documents.

Winterton is confident that “there are many more discoveries forthcoming, particularly as more people are getting out into the field.  We sure hope so! –as our Company at RR&Co. utilizes many of the resources which led to this chance discovery, we are delighted and enthralled by this brilliant combination of science and Photography.

 

 

(Photo Credit: Hock Ping Guek)

 

 

 

See NPR’s take on the story!

 

 

 

 

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See full post here: reneerhyner.com/node-feed2012-09-12.