Manila: Scientists have discovered a tiny new species of aquatic beetle in a bustling university campus here in the Philippine capital.
Manila - the world`s 10th largest megacity - is not a place one would normally expect to discover new species, even in a country that is known as a biodiversity hotspot.
However, researchers of the Ateneo de Manila University have discovered a tiny new species of aquatic beetle within the campus, aptly named Hydraena ateneo, after the university.
During field training in November 2012, Biology students and a faculty member of the Department of Biology sampled small creeks, ponds, and pools in wooded areas within their sprawling university campus.
The group found seven species of water beetles, of which one was a new record for the entire island of Luzon and another was Hydraena ateneo.
"I was so amazed that there are new species even in the Ateneo Campus in the middle of Manila. Then I was sure that I wanted to write my thesis on a taxonomic topic," said Arielle Vidal, who at the time of the training was enrolled in the Department`s BS Life Sciences programme.
"Then we pushed through and investigated a remote river catchment in Mindoro. We found several new species of the same genus there, too," said Kimberly Go, Vidal`s thesis partner.
Their thesis adviser and author of the recent paper, Associate Professor Dr Hendrik Freitag, said that the Long-palped Water Beetles (genus Hydraena) are in fact one of the most overlooked and diverse genera of aquatic beetles.
"Only 14 species of this genus - all endemic - are known from the country by now, but many more wait to be named and described," Freitag said.
"All of them display these extremely enlarged palps of the maxilla. These are real mouthpart appendages and not the antennae.
"Those species that were found in the Ateneo campus must have re-colonised the area after the tree cover has re-established in the last 50 years and the small creeks began to flow again," Freitag said.
The beetle has since been spotted outside of the university campus too.
Clister Pangantihon and Dr Ronald Lagat, both facilitators of the Philippine Aquatic Biodiversity Workshop held at Ateneo earlier this year confirmed, "we found Hydraena ataneo also in the neighbouring Province of Cavite during our workshop."
The paper was published in the journal Zookeys.