New Firefly Species Discovered in Southern California

Posted on June 29, 2015

New firefly species found in Southern California

A new firefly species has been discovered in Southern California. The firefly is half a centimeter long. It has a black body with an orange halo-like pattern on a shield covering its face. The firefly was discovered by Joshua Oliva, an undergraduate student at University of California, Riverside.

The firefly was found near Topanga, Calif by Oliva. He brought the specimen to the Entomology Research Museum at the University of California, Riverside. Doug Yanega, a senior scientist at the museum, tells UCR Today, "He wasn't 100 percent certain it was a firefly, and brought it to me for confirmation. I know the local fauna well enough that within minutes I was able to tell him he had found something entirely new to science. I don't think I've seen a happier student in my life."

There are fireflies in Southern California but fireflies are most common in the eastern half of the U.S. Yanega says there are a few firefly species that live in Southern California. He says they are nocturnal beetles that feed on snails. He says they live in very small, highly localized populations.

The new species will eventually get a name but the name process could take several years. Yanega explains: "The act of formally describing a new species is like gathering evidence for a court case, and might require the examination of specimens from many different collections in order to build a list of all of the features that make this species different from related known species, or even involve DNA sequencing. It's uncertain how long it might take to do it properly."

Photo: J. Olivia/UC Riverside