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Bug gurus spot new species -- on Flickr

A photographer in Malaysia uploads photos of an unusual-looking unclassified insect to the Internet, and a bug specialist in California happens to spot them. Next thing you know the bug has an official new name.

The elusive Semachrysa jade lacewing. (Click to enlarge.)
Hock Ping Guek

Call it fate, or just pure luck. One insect species recently gained a scientific name due to an eagle-eyed taxonomist browsing images on Flickr.

Our short story begins with a simple upload: Amateur photographer Hock Ping Guek posted a series of close-up photos featuring a strange green lacewing insect to the photo-sharing service in May 2011. Guek, who observed the lacewing at a state park in the Malaysian state of Selangor, has a penchant for macro insect photography.

Shaun Winterton, a senior insect biosystematist for the California Department of Food & Agriculture, along with other researchers, randomly came across the images of the unusual green lacewing on Flickr. They set off to identify the unknown insect.

Winterton reached out to Guek, hoping the photographer could somehow find the bug again and send it off for inspection. In late January of this year, Guek happened to encounter the rare lacewing again, captured it, and sent it to Winterton for further analysis. (Crave suggests Guek may want to start playing the lottery as quickly as possible.)

To classify the insect, Winterton collaborated with Stephen Brooks, a lacewing expert who works as an entomologist with the Natural History Museum in London. Among many other features, Guek's lacewing sports a 1.1-inch wingspan, which appears translucent except for some unusual black and blue markings.

After a round of analysis, Guek's discovery ended up being a completely new previously unnamed species of lacewing known as the Semachrysa jade, a name influenced by Winterton's daughter. Read the scientific paper related to the lacewing discovery at Zoo Keys.

Up close and personal with the newly named lacewing. (Click to enlarge.) Hock Ping Guek

(Via Science Magazine)