To some, flies are nothing more than a nuisance, but a new species has been discovered in the UK for the first time – thanks to the shape of its genitals.
The Grzegorzekia bushyae or Bushy Gnat is so called after a new find at Bushy Park, placing the London attraction on the worldwide insect map.
While identifying fungus gnats caught in the park, entomologist Peter Chandler found a species of the genus Grzegorzekia that had “a genital structure markedly different” to the widespread species Grzegorzekia collaris – the only previously known species of that kind in Britain.
Specimens found in the Waterhouse Woodland Gardens towards the western edge of the park were found to be a new species identified in the UK, which is also thought to be scarce across Europe.
Writing in the Entomologist’s Gazette, Mr Chandler also referenced how the same species had later been found in a forest in south-east France leading him to conclude that this particular gnat is only found in woodland areas. Studies are also continuing into whether a specific fungus is helping to support this new species.
Mr Chandler said:
“With Bushy Park remaining the only known site in Britain, it is difficult to determine the present status of Grzegorzekia bushyae. In view of the finds being in close proximity to the woodland garden, in which there has been considerable exotic planting, it might be concluded that it is a recent introduction with plant material. The recent discovery of this distinctive species suggests that it is quite scarce.”
During his studies, Mr Chandler discovered that the male genitals of the new Bushy Gnat differs from the related species Grzegorzekia collaris with a much broader comb of spines along the largest part of the genitals. He also found that the sides of the genitals were narrower and cut away revealing more of the gnat’s reproductive organ which secretes sperm.
Speaking ahead of National Insect Week (June 20 to 26), Claudia Watts who works in The Royal Parks’ ecology team said:
“This is really exciting news for the Royal Parks, and particularly because the new species has been named after the park where it was discovered.
“Most people think that new species to science are only discovered nowadays in little-visited far-flung places like tropical rainforests or the depths of the ocean, but this shows that even public parks in London can harbour undiscovered gems.
“These little flies may look unremarkable, but they are a vital source of food for birds, fish, bats and larger insects, and in some cases can help pollinate plants.”