Monday, December 14, 2015

A new dragonfly: Umma gumma

Today's new species is actually just one out of sixty newly discovered and described species from Africa. What is also remarkable is that nine of the 60 dragonflies were discovered by an employed biologist, all others in a teacher's and environmental consultants' free time. With this research, the number of dragonfly species known from Africa increases by almost 10%, from 700 to 760 species.

All dragonflies are bound to freshwater, which covers less than 1% of the planet's surface. Nonetheless, it is home to about 10% of all animal species. As freshwater is used so intensively, life is most threatened there. The beauty and sensitivity of dragonflies provides a perfect symbol of freshwater heath and biodiversity. Their presence is also an indicator of good water quality. 

Does anybody recognizes the species name? Perhaps only those that are about my age and older. It refers to the 1969 Pink Floyd album Ummagumma

For the experts: Man knows just one fifth of the nine million species of animal, plant, fungus and protist thought to inhabit our planet. Dragonflies and damselflies are regarded as well-known, however. Nevertheless we describe 60 new species, the most to be named at once in 130 years, adding one to every twelve species known in Africa. Each species is colourful and can often be recognised even from a photograph, showing that not all unknown life is indistinct and concealed. The species’ beauty and sensitivity can raise awareness for the densest and most threatened biodiversity: freshwater covers less than one percent of Earth’s surface, but harbours ten percent of animal species, of which a third may be at risk of extinction. Most of them, like dragonflies, are insects. They are popular indicators of habitat value and quality, but without a name cannot be added to the IUCN Red list. As habitats are rapidly disappearing, more exploratory and descriptive research is needed, support for which has waned. Nature, natural historians and the archives of life they build together are all under threat: our 60 new species are therefore as much an act of desperation as urgency. 

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