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Biologists Are Somehow Discovering a Ton of New Species in Quarantine

June 22nd 20__Victor Tangermann__Filed Under: Earth & Energy
Thomas Shahan

Insects Close Up

Biologists: They’re just like us. Like everyone else, they’ve had to work from home during the ongoing global pandemic. And like everyone else, they’ve had more time on their hands than ever before.

Which is how, with the help of nothing more sophisticated than a microscope, they’re still discovering new insect species left and right, as Wired reports.

Lisa Gonzalez, assistant entomology collection manager at the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles, turned her home into a lab and began the lengthy, time-consuming task of going through massive collections of insects.

Home Lab

It’s an especially lengthy process since she didn’t have access to sophisticated DNA apparatus that could make identifying new species easier. Instead, she had to rely on old-school science — by looking at the various insects’ features under a microscope.

Her co-worker Brian Brown alone managed to discover nine species of small flies using a larger stereoscope from work — and a microscope he found on craigslist.

“We can’t go into the lab right now, so we are back to identifying things with microscopes and looking for characteristics that are difficult to see,” Brown told Wired. “These time-consuming tasks are confronted with people who have a lot of time.”

No Distractions

“When you first start this work-at-home thing, you think, ‘This is great because there are no distractions, and I can whip out a dozen papers,'” Brown explained to the website. “But it’s amazing how having a place to go to work focuses your efforts and attention.”

Their discoveries also highlight how many more species there are still out there to be discovered. “We do have incredible diversity and new species living under our noses,” Gonzalez told Wired. “That’s something most people don’t realize.”

READ MORE: Stuck at Home, Scientists Discover 9 New Insect Species [Wired]

More on small critters: Study: More Than 500 Vertebrates Poised To Go Extinct