Flickr Helps Scientists Discover New Species Of InsectBy: Zach Walton - August 9, 2012
I always thought that we knew everything there ever was to know about insects. They’re everywhere and they’re not exactly hard to find. Where would we ever find new species? A Flickr user, Hock Ping Guek, took some pictures of an insect, but only found out later that he had discovered an entirely new species.
A scientific report recently came out that discussed the “the confluence of citizen scientist, online image database and cybertaxonomy.” The Internet has given rise to such terms like citizen scientist or citizen journalist. What’s fascinating is that such discoveries by these “citizen scientists” are nothing new.
The paper says that new species are being discovered all the time by people that just like to take pictures. These people upload these seemingly innocuous photos to Facebook or Flickr only to find out later that they have discovered an entirely new species.
Here’s how it all went down according to the paper:
The discovery of a new species of Semachrysa described in this paper is a direct result of the incidental interaction of photographer/citizen scientist, online image database and professional scientists. Images of Semachrysa jade sp. n. were initially posted by the second author on the online image database Flickr for comment by the photography and natural history communities. The specimen had been released once it was photographed and at this stage no determination had been made on the taxonomic identity of the species. The online images were then randomly examined by the senior author who determined that this distinctive species was not immediately recognizable as any previously described species. Links to the images were forwarded to additional experts in chrysopid taxonomy to elicit comment on its possible taxonomic identity. After extensive discussion it was concluded that the species was likely new to science but its generic placement inconclusive based solely upon the images at hand.
After the initial discovery was made, the scientists traveled back to the same spot with the original photographer to capture some specimens for study. They were able to come out of it with a male and female specimen of this new species.
Check out the beautiful photos of this news species of Green Lacewing:
In other science news, you can read the entire fascinating report on social media and science combing their powers for good right now. It’s absolutely free. The study was released under a creative commons license so we call can enjoy it. Now if only other scientific research would go free so we could all benefit from it.[h/t: Monga Bay]