New Nameless Grasshopper
A heated debate over whether a new species should be described without a physical specimen … has been going on for a long time.
An example is the new one Unnamed scaria – announced this month in this same scientific article – discovered via old photographs on the website naturalist. This site looks like a community of naturalists. Community members share photos of their wildlife sightings, looking for crowdsourcing identifiers. In 2018, Robert sindaco from the Institute of Woody Plants and the Environment in Italy posted on iNaturalist images of a pygmy grasshopper he photographed in a Peruvian rainforest in 2008. The images caught the attention of students in Croatia , especially Niko Kasalo at the University of Zagreb. The students, along with their teacher and Sindaco, now have announcement the new discovery of grasshoppers. Kasalo told EarthSky that the new grasshopper:
… has become the symbol of the efforts of citizen scientists and their role in the discovery of new species.
Social networks and the Nameless Scaria
It is not common to name a new species based on photos alone. Usually, scientists collect new species from their habitats and then name them, in accordance with the rules and standards maintained by the International Code of Zoological Nomenclature.
But the only known sightings of this new species of grasshopper come from photographs published on iNaturalist. And there is no mechanism in science to name a species seen only in photos.
Thus, the researchers were able to describe their new species of pygmy grasshopper, but they could not name it. In fact, an earlier version of their article – which attempted to name the grasshopper – was rejected by the newspaper. From where the nameless Scaria.
Connecting people and nature
Even though they couldn’t name the new grasshopper, these citizen scientists felt it was important to describe the species in their scientific paper. They said:
By the time a scientist collects, examines and describes a new species, several others have disappeared… The description of each new species recalls those which could not be studied in time and which are now irreparably lost.
Social media sites like iNaturalist or, in astronomy, Zooniverse – which help citizens get involved in science – make people feel part of the natural world around them. These sites also help people understand how science works. These authors said:
Only by interacting with nature can we truly feel how much we could lose if we don’t take care of it. And care is urgently needed.
Conclusion: old photos from social networks led to the discovery of a new species of pygmy grasshopper, which currently bears the nickname of the unnamed Scaria.
Read more: Video and photos: Rich biodiversity in the rainforest of South America