New Species Found On Easter Island

The new insect. Photo: Jut Wynne, Northern Arizona University

The new insect. Photo: Jut Wynne, Northern Arizona University

Last year disinformation undertook an investigative expedition to Easter Island with geologist Dr. Robert Schoch, of MIT. You can review Robert’s initial findings here (includes video). One of the focuses of the expedition was exploring caves for fossil remains. Now the caves have supplied another amazing finding, reported by Clara Moskowitz for LiveScience:

Scientists recently uncovered a new species of tiny insect in a cave on Easter Island. The find is exciting because most of the island’s native life has gone extinct, researchers said.

The still-unnamed insect was discovered in a cave within the Roiho lava flow in west-central Easter Island (also known as Rapa Nui) in the South Pacific Ocean. The species – roughly the size of a grain of rice – is a type of book louse, in the order Psocoptera, the family Lepidopsocidae and the genus Cyptophania.

“This could be very important for piecing the natural history of the island together,” said research leader Jut Wynne, ecologist with the Colorado Plateau Research Station at Northern Arizona University and a Ph.D. candidate in biology at Northern Arizona University…

But the scientists think some native creatures may have had better luck in the relatively protected environments of caves, which preserve some elements of the native ecosystem of the island.

The researchers embarked on a quest to search through these caves, “scrambling around on our hands and knees,” Wynne said. After a while he began to notice promising signs.

“Once you’re trained to look for these types of critters, they tend to jump out at you,” Wynne said.
The new book louse species was the first such example discovered, but the researchers think there’s a good chance their work will find more.

“That’s why this is really interesting from a scientific standpoint,” Wynne said. “Maybe we can find more organisms that are residual fauna that have been able to weather the environmental degradation on the island by retreating to caves.”…

[continues at LiveScience]

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