A new species of insect has been discovered by a British scientist in the Ugandan rainforest.Dr Alvin Helden of Anglia Ruskin University (ARU) made the find during field work with students in the Kibale National Park and it belongs to a group of insects so rare that its closest relative was last seen in 1969.
It has been named Phlogis kibalensis and is from the leafhopper family, with its distinctive metallic sheen, pitted body and leaf shaped male reproductive organs.
The discovery was made at the Kibale National Park in western Uganda
Before the new discovery, made in 2018, the last recorded sighting of a leafhopper from the rare Phlogis genus was in Central African Republic in 1969.Leafhoppers are closely related to cicadas but much smaller, with the newly discovered male species measuring just 6.5mm long.
Dr Helden said he noticed under a microscope the male bug was of a new species due to the shape of its reproductive organs, which have a bit that looks like “little leaves” and is “towards the tip of the structure”.
The insects mainly eat plant sap and are preyed on by spiders, beetles and parasitic wasps, as well as birds.
Dr Helden, a member of the Applied Ecology Research Group at ARU, said: “To find this new species is a once in a lifetime achievement, particularly as it’s closest relative was last found in a different country over 50 years ago. I knew it was something very special as soon as I spotted it.
Dr Alvin Helden of Anglia Ruskin University has been taking students to the national park in Uganda since 2015
“Leafhoppers of this genus, and the wider tribe, are very unusual in appearance, and are rarely found. In fact, they are so incredibly rare that their biology remains almost completely unknown, and we know almost nothing about Phlogis kibalensis.”There are some wonderful places, like the Kibale National Park in Uganda, where wildlife will survive, but outside national parks and reserves, the amount of rainforest that has been cleared in the tropics is devastating.”Rare species could be living anywhere, but deforestation means it is inevitable that we will be losing species before we have discovered them.”Dr Helden has been leading student field trips to the national park in western Uganda, close to the Democratic Republic of the Congo’s border, since 2015 and as part of the work, he has been documenting insects found in the park.