A Malaysian man's photo of a bug with an eye-catching wing pattern has led to the accidental discovery of a new insect species, after an entomologist on another continent stumbled upon the picture on the popular photo-sharing website Flickr.
Photographer Hock Ping Guek said he first came across the green lacewing in the Malaysian rainforest last year. Struck by its beauty, he snapped a photo and watched it flutter away, later posting the photo online through Flickr.
When Shaun Winterton, a senior entomologist at the California Department of Food and Agriculture, stumbled across the photo while browsing the web, he was perplexed. The splashes of blue and the black lines on the wing were something neither he nor his colleagues had ever seen before.
Winterton wrote to Guek to alert him of the possible discovery of a new insect species.
But it wasn't until a year later that Guek actually encountered another of the insects — now named Semachrysa jade — and was able to capture the specimen for study.
Named after researcher's daughter
"He told me, 'I've got one in a container on my kitchen table — what should I do with it?'" Winterton told NPR News.
The name of the insect came from Winterton's daughter, Jade.
Winterton and Guek confirmed that the insect had never been classified before by sending it to Steve Brooks, an entomologist at the Natural History Museum in London.
The trio then collaborated across continents on a research article introducing the new green lacewing to the science world and crediting a "citizen scientist" and the use of an online image database in the study's title.
The article, A charismatic new species of green lacewing discovered in Malaysia (Neuroptera, Chrysopidae): the confluence of citizen scientist, online image database and cybertaxonomy, is featured in the latest issue of the journal ZooKeys.