They discover a new species of insect “incredibly rare”


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A British scientist has discovered in the Ugandan jungle a new species of grasshopper “unbelievably rare” It belongs to a group of insects so strange that its closest relative was last seen in 1969.

Alvin Helden of Anglia Ruskin University (ARU) found the new grasshopper, named Phlogis kibalensis, while conducting fieldwork to document insects within Kibale National Park in western Uganda. The new species has a distinctive metallic sheen and, like most leafhoppers, uniquely shaped male reproductive organs, in this case partially leaf-shaped. It belongs to a group or genus called Phlogis.

Before this new discovery, the last recorded sighting of a grasshopper of this rare genus was in the Central African Republic in 1969.

unknown biology

Grasshoppers are closely related to cicadas, but are much smaller. the male of Phlogis kibalensis measures just 6.5mm long. Grasshoppers feed primarily on plant sap and are preyed upon by invertebrates, including spiders, beetles, and parasitic wasps, as well as birds.

“Finding this new species is a once-in-a-lifetime achievement, particularly as its closest relative was last found in a different country more than 50 years ago. I knew it was something very special as soon as I saw it,” says Helden.

“Grasshoppers in this genus are very unusual in appearance and are rarely found. In fact, they are so incredibly rare that their biology remains almost completely unknown, and we know next to nothing about them. Phlogis kibalensis, including the plants it feeds on or its role in the local ecosystem,” he explains.

Extinct before being discovered

According to Helden, much remains to be discovered, not just about this species, but about many others, including the many that are still waiting to be discovered. “It’s incredibly sad to think that some species will go extinct before we’re even aware of their existence,” he says.

As he explains, there are some “wonderful” places, like Kibale National Park, where wildlife will survive, but outside of national parks and reserves, “the amount of rainforest that has been cleared in the tropics is devastating.” Rare species could live anywhere, but deforestation means it’s “inevitable” that we lose species before we’ve discovered them.

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