Published: 27 January 2022 at 22:00
The closest relative to this newly discovered leafhopper was last spotted in 1969
An Anglia Ruskin University (ARU) scientist has discovered a new species that belongs to a group of insects so rare that its closest relative was last seen in 1969.
Dr Alvin Helden found the new species of leafhopper, which he has named Phlogis kibalensis, during field work with students in the rainforest of the Kibale National Park in western Uganda, and the discovery has been announced in the journal Zootaxa.
The new species, which has a distinctive metallic sheen, pitted body, and, in common with most leafhoppers, uniquely-shaped male reproductive organs – in this case partially leaf-shaped – belongs to a group, or genus, called Phlogis.
Prior to this new discovery, the last recorded sighting of a leafhopper from this rare genus was in Central African Republic in 1969.
Leafhoppers are closely related to cicadas but are much smaller, with the male of the newly discovered Phlogis kibalensis species just 6.5mm long. Leafhoppers feed mainly on plant sap, sucked directly from the phloem, and are preyed on by invertebrates, including spiders, beetles, and parasitic wasps, as well as birds.
Dr Helden, a member of the Applied Ecology Research Group at ARU, said:
Dr Helden has been leading student field trips to the Kibale National Park, close to Uganda’s border with the Democratic Republic of Congo, since 2015. As part of the work, he has been documenting the insects found within the park, and has produced picture guides to Kibale’s butterflies, hawkmoths, and tortoise beetles.
Dr Helden added: