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NSF-funded inventory of mega-diverse insect order now underway
Date:12/14/2012

Los AngelesAn ambitious three-year insect inventory of a Costa Rican rainforest, funded by a $900,000 National Science Foundation, is now underway. Led by Drs. Brian Brown (Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County) and Art Borkent (Royal British Columbia Museum, Canada), an international, 44-member team of fly specialists, including experts at the National Biodiversity Institute (INBio) of Costa Rica, are working to inventory all the species living in an approximately 5-acre area (100 by 200 meters). The site is located in a tropical cloud forest in the foothills in eastern Costa Rica, called Zurqu de Moravia.

The Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County (NHM) team returned from their second trip this summer, and have now established collecting and preparation protocols. They estimate they will discover at least 3,000 species, many of them new to science.

The Diptera, or true flies, are already known to include more than 160,000 species worldwide, far more than all the better known mammals, birds, fish, reptiles, and amphibians combined, and are equally susceptible to extinction and habitat loss. Research on flies is less advanced, however.

NHM's Entomology Department is currently specializing in the group, and will become a hub to dipterists everywhere. Assessing their biodiversity is one step towards understanding complex ecosystems and creating an informed conservation plan that gives us a starting point to assess ongoing climate change.

"As the first effort to comprehensively survey all species of a large, mega-diverse group of invertebrates of a tropical forest location, this is potentially a landmark research project in tropical biology" said Brown. American Museum of Natural History Curator, Dr. David Grimaldi, agreed. "This will make a very important contribution to understanding the species diversity of a highly diverse, but restricted tropical fauna. One really wonders how many species such an area hol
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Contact: Kristin Friedrich
kfriedri@nhm.org
213-763-3532
Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County
Source:Eurekalert  

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