Matthew Connors, a researcher from James Cook University, has uncovered two previously unknown praying mantis species, with citizen scientists playing a crucial role in the discoveries. The findings, featured in Zootaxa, include a mantis that not only represents a new species but an entirely novel genus—a classification level above species. Citizen scientist Glenda Walter, contributing through the iNaturalist platform, led to the identification of this new species, named Inimia nat (I. nat).
Connors emphasizes the transformative impact of citizen science on natural research, citing the ability of a broader community to survey diverse ecosystems over extended periods. He underscores the potential for new species discoveries, estimating that Australia alone may have less than a third of its species formally recognized. Connors notes that even amateur naturalists can significantly contribute to uncovering new species, as evidenced by the collaborative discovery of the mantis genus—the first in its subfamily since before the moon landing and the first new Australian mantis genus since the new millennium.
The second newly identified mantis, named Ima corymbia, challenges previous assumptions about its identity. Initially believed to be the same as its sister species, the Paperbark Mantis (Ima fusca), a closer examination revealed distinct differences in their body structures. Citizen scientists' observations provided valuable insights into the habitat and behavior of this new mantis species.
Connors highlights the role of citizen scientists in overcoming barriers of time and distance, enabling the collection of extensive data that would otherwise require years or decades for researchers to amass. He emphasizes the wealth of information derived from citizen science programs, expressing optimism about ongoing discoveries facilitated by individuals passionate about nature.
In conclusion, Connors celebrates citizen science as an accessible avenue for anyone interested in contributing to our understanding of the natural world, emphasizing the vast unexplored realms where countless new species likely await discovery.
Source: James Cook University