Wetland Park gives world a new firefly

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 23 September, 2010, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 23 September, 2010, 12:00am

Hong Kong experts have discovered a firefly species that is new to science.

Yet to be named, the firefly had been known to live in the Wetland Park in Tin Shui Wai for at least seven years before being identified as a new species this year.

'I was researching birds in the park in 2003 when I saw the fireflies in the mangroves. I wasn't aware they were new and the species that we know in Hong Kong did not depend on mangroves,' said Josephine Cheng Chui-yu, the Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department's wetland park manager.

The department started to notice the bugs in the mangroves had a different flashing pattern and frequency, after Cheng joined its beetle working group and alerted staff to her observations.

With the help of an Australian and a mainland expert, the team after research made a preliminary conclusion that the species was a new one to science. Belonging to the genus Pteroptyx, the firefly has a body length of about 8mm to 10mm, with dark brown top.

A distinctive feature is the hooked wing covers of the male, which serve as a clamp to enable it to hold the female during mating, while at the same time keeping other males away.

The genus thrives in the tropics, usually in mangroves in Southeast Asia, so it was unusual that a species existed in sub-tropical Hong Kong, Cheng said.

The species will add to about 2,000 known firefly types found around the world.

There is a population of about 80 of the new species in the Wetland Park, and 200 more in Mai Po, a protected wetland area nearby. Cheng said it would not be a problem to protect the creatures, as the two habitats were designated conservation areas.

The wetland park is staging an exhibition of the larvae and adult specimens of the fireflies until the middle of next month.