Researchers Rely on Photographs to Identify New Fly Species

Posted on October 8, 2015

Marleyimyia xylocopae

Researchers used photographs to identify a new species of fly instead of using the traditional method of collecting dead specimens. The new bee fly species is pictured above. It has been named Marleyimyia xylocopae.

The new bee fly belongs to a very rare genus. It is described by Dr. Stephen A. Marshall from the University of Guelph, Canada, and Dr. Neal Evenhuis from the Bishop Museum, Hawaii. The authors say they are not denouncing dead insect specimen collection and dissection. They argue that the increased difficulty in obtaining permits to collect specimens in many regions calls out for an alternative. The Atlantic reports that the new fly species is the first insect to be named without any supporting physical evidence.

Marleyimyia xylocopae is described a huge fly that resembles a carpenter bee. The new bombyliid species is described as an "apparent mimic" of the carpenter bee and could be a parasite of the carpenter bee. The bee fly was photographed using a Nikon D800 with a 105 macro lens and a hand-held flash. A research paper on the new species can be found here in the journal, Zookeys.

The researchers say in a statement, "As these image collections become curated just as dead specimens are curated today, the digital specimens will find their way into the work of practicing taxonomists, and they will need names. It is unrealistic to think that distinct and diagnosable new taxa known only from good photographs and appropriate associated metadata should be organized and referred to only as 'undescribed species' when they can and should be organized and named using the existing rules of nomenclature."

Photo: Dr. Stephen A. Marshall