October 11, 2013
New Firefly Species Discovered In Delaware
April Flowers for redOrbit.com - Your Universe Online
Dr. Christopher Heckscher, associate professor of environmental science at Delaware State University (DSU), has become the first at that institution to discovery a new animal species. His discovery, a new firefly species among the Photuris genus , was described in the journal Entomological News.
Dr. Heckscher originally discovered the new firefly, named Photuris mysticalampas, in 2004 when he was working as the state zoologist for the Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control as he was doing a survey of Prime Hook National Wildlife Refuge along the Delaware Bay.
“I collected a firefly at Prime Hook I couldn’t identify and thought it was just a rare species I wasn’t familiar with,” he said in a statement. “Then a couple of years later I was doing a field survey in the Nanticoke wildlife area (also in Sussex County) and I came across it again. At that point, I realized it might be a new species.”
Heckscher consulted with the then-foremost firefly authority in the country - Dr. James Lloyd - about his find.
“(Dr. Lloyd) wasn’t familiar with it either,” Dr. Heckscher said. “I knew that if he didn’t know it, then it had to be an unknown species.”
Heckscher joined DSU full-time in 2008 and has done the majority of his research to prove the firefly was a new species while he has been there. He used a "dichotomous key" to study the unidentified firefly. The key compared specific characteristics of the firefly with known firefly species.
“This discovery was unique because this firefly was found in this region, which has been well studied,” Dr. Heckscher said, “I think it’s a great example of how much we still have to learn about our natural world. If a firefly can go undiscovered how much else are we missing?” The new firefly was found in remote sections of Delaware wildlife areas largely untouched by human impacts.
The new firefly, when compared to existing species, was distinguished by its distinct oval body, small size, flash pattern, and dense pubescent elytra (forewing).
Heckscher is looking forward to more research on the new species. “Nothing is known about this species,” he said. “So everything I find out will be new.”