New species of leaf-like insects have been discovered

Scientists describe seven new species of leafhoppers – insects that deceptively resemble leafhoppers. This was no easy task, because closely related individuals are often different from each other, but similar to their distant cousins. The researchers explained that these results will help protect these invertebrates.

Insects of the order Phasimidae (fasmid) It is known to mimic members of the plant kingdom. The bodies of some of them resemble sticks, others are pieces of wood bark. As the name suggests, leaves (Philium) It integrates into the environment and imitates the leaves of the plants it feeds on. This strategy allows you to confuse predators – and more. Identifying these beautiful invertebrates is also a challenge for entomologists.

hidden species

The paper, published in the journal ZooKeys, describes research on papers from South and Southeast Asia. The authors used insects of unspecified species from universities, museums, and private collections. Their goal was to analyze the genetics of the animals and discover exactly what species they represented.

Genetic tests showed that some of the leaflets belonged to seven completely new species. Some of the insects were significantly different from each other – for example, in the image below, individuals B and C belong to the same species, Philium Ortizi from the Philippines, while in picture A there is a representative of a completely different species, the Indian pulcrephylium anango. It is these “hidden species” that pose the greatest challenge to researchers.

Newly discovered leaf species from South AsiaVishwanath Gowda, Maxim Ortiz

Individuals of different species are often grouped together because of their visual similarities. “We were able to distinguish some of the new species solely on the basis of their genetic characteristics,” explained Sarah Bank-Oppen from the University of Göttingen, a co-author of the study.

Knowledge and protection

The discovery of new species is important not only from a taxonomy point of view – knowing about them can help preserve them. For example, if all the individuals living in India died out, not only would the numbers of one species decline, but in fact entire species would be endangered. On this basis it will be possible to determine which species require special protection.

“We know of about 3,500 species of Phlomides, but just over a hundred publications,” explained Sven Bradler from the University of Göttingen, a co-author of the study. He added, “Although they are only a small part of this rich group, they are distinguished by their amazing appearance.”

To date, thanks to genetic research, as many as 20 new species of flyers have been discovered from Vietnam, Borneo, Java and the Philippines.

Main image source: Vishwanath Gowda, Maxim Ortiz

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