Discovery of new species proves PH is haven for biodiversity

ASEAN Centre for Biodiversity Infographic

LOS BANOS, Laguna, April 29 — ASEAN Biodiversity expert, Dr. Theresa Mundita S. Lim, executive director of the ASEAN Centre for Biodiversity (ACB), lauds the team of local and international researchers who recently discovered three new species in Mindanao: bark cricket (Endodrelanva siargaoensis), sword-tailed cricket (Trigonidium solis), and a very unique cricket which produces no sound unlike other typical crickets. The new species of “mute” cricket was named Paranisitra flavofacia.

The discovery team was led by researchers Sheryl Yap and Jessica Barbecho from UP Los Baños, along with researchers from the Russian Academy of Sciences, the National University of Singapore, and the Muséum National d’Histoire Naturelle in France. The team discovered the crickets during biodiversity surveys conducted in the town of Del Carmen in Siargao Island last year.

Dr. Lim, a staunch advocate of species and wildlife conservation, said the discovery of the three species of crickets further proves that there are still thousands of species in the Philippines that remain to be discovered and identified. “It also demonstrates that the Philippines is a critically important haven for biodiversity.”

In 2011, the Philippine Biodiversity Expedition discovered some 300 new species. The expedition was led by scientists from the California Academy of Sciences, joined by two dozen colleagues from the Philippines. The discoveries included deep-sea armored corals, ornate sea pens, new sea urchins and sea stars, a shrimp-eating swell shark, over 50 colorful new sea slugs, and insects and spiders.

Dr. Terrence Gosliner, Dean of Science and Research Collections at the California Academy of Sciences and leader of the 2011 Philippine Biodiversity Expedition, said, “Biodiversity in the Philippines is still relatively unknown, and we found new species during nearly every dive and hike as we surveyed the country’s reefs, rainforests, and the ocean floor. The species lists and distribution maps that we created during this expedition will help to inform future conservation decisions and ensure that this remarkable biodiversity is afforded the best possible chance of survival.”

In light of the new species discoveries, Dr. Lim encourages the youth to take up courses in biology or taxonomy. According to the Secretariat of the Convention on Biological Diversity, the diminishing number of taxonomists is a major hindrance to biodiversity conservation. Scientists estimate that more than 90 percent of the world’s species have yet to be discovered.

Dr. Lim, emphasising the need for more taxonomists, said, “Many of our species may be disappearing before we even know they exist. We need taxonomists to identify them. We can’t conserve what we don’t know. Knowing our species will enable conservation policy and decision makers to make smart and appropriate decisions and strategies on how to conserve what is left of our biodiversity.”

How valuable are crickets to our environment? Crickets play an important role in maintaining the balance of the ecosystem. They renew soil minerals and decompose plant materials, contributing to soil richness which in turn ensures good habitats for plants and trees. Field crickets consume the seeds of weed species that may be invasive in garden ecosystems.

Crickets are food for other animals, and even humans. In a 2013 report, the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization said current farming and food production practices are unsustainable—but edible insects, such as crickets, are a viable, untapped resource that could help meet the food demands of the world’s expanding population.

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