Biodiversity where you least expect it: A new beetle species from a busy megacity

Sep. 5, 2013 — Metro Manila — the world’s 10th largest megacity and 6th largest conurbation, based on official statistics — is not a place one would normally expect to discover new species, even in a country that is known as a biodiversity hotspot.In a 83-hectare green island amidst the unnatural ocean of countless human-made edifices, researchers of the Ateneo de Manila University have discovered a tiny new species of aquatic beetle, aptly named Hydraena ateneo. It was named after the University, a 154-year-old Jesuit-run institution that is recognized as one of the premier universities in the Philippines and in the region. The international open access scientific journal Zookeys has published the paper about the unusual discovery in its latest issue [329: 9 (2013)]. The publication of the fact is just timely, given that the university’s Department of Biology is celebrating its 50th anniversary this year.During field training in November 2012, Biology students and a faculty member of the Department of Biology sampled small creeks, ponds, and pools in wooded areas within their sprawling university campus. The group found seven species of water beetles, of which one was a new record for the entire island of Luzon and another was Hydraena ateneo.Arielle Vidal, at the time of the training enrolled in the Department’s B.S. Life Sciences program, says: “I was so amazed that there are new species even in the Ateneo Campus in the middle of Manila. Then I was sure that I wanted to write my thesis on a taxonomic topic.” Kimberly Go, her thesis partner, adds: “Then we pushed through and investigated a remote river catchment in Mindoro. We found several new species of the same genus there, too.”Their thesis adviser and author of the recent paper, Associate Professor Dr. Hendrik Freitag, explains: “The Long-palped Water Beetles (genus Hydraena) are in fact one of the most overlooked and diverse genera of aquatic beetles. …

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