Wednesday, 7 October 2015

No need to kill: New fly species first-ever to be classified with just pictures

OCTOBER 6, 2015

by Shayne Jacopian

For the first time ever, a new species of insect has been verified and had its first description written using only high-resolution photographs—no dead specimens were needed, according to a statement.

Scientists have argued for some time over whether an actual dead specimen is necessary to classify a new species, with some saying that it’s no longer necessary now that we have high-resolution photography, and others saying that using anything but a real specimen for the first description of a new species is “malpractice."

Take a picture; it will last longer

The new species of bee fly, part of a very rare genus, was described by Dr. Stephen Marshall of the University of Guelph in Canada and Dr. Neal Evenhuis of the Bishop Museum in Hawaii in the journal ZooKeys, along with commentary on the subject of verifying species without physical specimens. Named Marleyimyia xylocopae, it's a very large fly resembling a carpenter bee. Sounds like a fly you don't want to mess around with.

While the authors acknowledge that dead specimen collection and dissection is the best method for new species description, obtaining permits in many areas is prohibitively difficult, and they suggest high-resolution photographs as an alternative when dead species collection isn’t feasible.

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