TOPANGA CANYON—A University of California, Riverside undergraduate student has discovered a new species of firefly in the Topanga Canyon area. The Entomology Research Museum at UC Riverside announced earlier this week. The firefly is about half a centimeter long, black in color and glows faintly.
UCR’s collection already contains nearly 4 million specimens collected over more than 100 years, with new species being found among them on a regular basis. They have fewer than 30 local firefly specimens in their collection. Doug Yanega, senior museum scientist, commented that finding new species of insects is more common than people think, although not for undergraduate students.
Joshua Oliva, a 24-year old who graduated from UCR this past month, found the firefly while collecting insects for his semester insect collection. Oliva was unsure whether the insect he had collected was a firefly or not, and brought it in to Yanega for confirmation. Yangea told him he had just discovered something “entirely new to science.”
“I don’t think I’ve seen a happier student in my life,” said Yanega, who confirmed the firefly Oliva had brought in was a new, unknown species. “My discovery shows me that the field of entomology has a lot of opportunities for hardworking students,” said Oliva. He is planning on applying to UCR for graduate studies in entomology.
This discovery is especially important because there are few fireflies that live in Southern California. They tend to occur in small and localized populations where they are not encountered easily. The habitat where the firefly was found may require protection, until more information can be learned about it.