Los Angeles’s 30 Newest Species


Los Angeles – A recent study has revealed thirty previously-unknown species of flies, living right here in the bustling city of Los Angeles. This is remarkable because we usually don’t think of urbanized areas as being particularly biologically diverse. Our man-made habitat seems so far removed from nature, with buildings and concrete replacing trees and earth. But our lack of information on urban environments has allowed for an interesting research opportunity. A few years ago, The Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County initiated a project called BioSCAN to search for biodiversity in heavily urbanized areas.

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A new species of fly found in Los Angeles. Named Megaselia mikejohnsoni after the Johnson family who hosted the collection in their backyard.

How they did it

A handful of insect traps were set up in backyards throughout Los Angeles and once a week the insects caught in these traps were collected, brought back to the museum, and sorted. Emily Hartop and Dr. Brian Brown are the BioSCAN scientists who spearheaded the study for these 30 new species. They focused on the identification of phorids, a group of flies that are small in size but big in diversity.

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Emily put in the incredible amount of time required to describe these insects — a process that involves carefully inspecting, measuring and illustrating the physical features of each fly (including fly genitalia). Emily then had the task of comparing her specimens to every known phorid in the world to determine if hers were indeed different. And she found 30 that were indeed different. They chose to name each species in honor of the volunteers who hosted the BioSCAN collections in their yards.

Flies that were collected in the yard of an LA —> Read More