A researcher has discovered a completely new species of bees that strangely, have a dog-like snout.
A new native bee species with a dog-like snout has been discovered by Curtin University researchers in Perth, Western Australia. The discovery of the species is presented in a paper published in the Journal of Hymenoptera Research. The author of the study is Dr. Kit Prendergast from the Curtin School of Molecular and Life Sciences. The new species was named after the researcher’s pet dog Zephyr after she noticed a protruding part of the insect’s face that looked like a dog’s snout and acknowledged the emotional support her dog provided during her research.
A novel species
In addition to adding to the existing knowledge about our biodiversity, the rare and remarkable bee named Leioproctus zephyr will be protected by conservation measures. “I was immediately intrigued by the bee’s very unusual face when I first observed the specimens I collected during my Ph.D. research at the southwest WA biodiversity hotspot,” Dr. Prendergast said. When the researchers attempted to identify it, she found it matched no previously documented species. Dr. Prendergast explained that she would be sure that if it were a known species, it would be easily identifiable, given its unusual appearance.
How to identify a new species?
Identifying a species is not an easy task. In fact, as Dr. Prendergast explained, researchers can only identify a particular species once you analyze them under a microscope. Then, you have to work thoroughly to match characteristics against other identified species. Once you are done, you look through museum samples and collections. Dr. Prendergast was exploring the WA Museum’s Entomology collection and came across specimens of Leioproctus zephyrus. While these had been collected back in 1979, they were never scientifically described. She said she was thrilled to play a role in naming this species and making it more widely known. There are so many insects in the world, yet so few of them have scientific names or descriptions, Dr. Prendergast explained. DNA barcoding confirmed that Dr. Prendergast’s new species closely resembled other unidentified Lieoproctus species.
There has only been one collection of Leioproctus zephyr from the original location in southwest Western Australia. Their distribution is highly restricted, occurring only in seven places across the southwest region. Residential gardens were completely absent of them, and only five urban bushland remnants where they foraged on Jacksonia plants were present. Aside from being fussy, they have a clypeus that has the appearance of a snout. Thus, I named them Zephyr after my dog. In the difficult period of doing a Ph.D. and beyond, she has been an extremely helpful support system for my mental health and well-being, Dr. Prendergast explained.