Backyard biodiversity: Unraveling life histories of the new fly species discovered by the BioSCAN Project proves harder than first assumed
In 2014, an urban biodiversity study sampling primarily from private backyards in Los Angeles, California (USA) collected 43 species of Megaselia (Diptera: Phoridae) previously unknown to science. These species have now been described, but their life histories are completely unknown. This study used traditional rearing techniques in an attempt to reveal the food resources needed for larval development and to shed light on the ecological roles of these new species. Despite dozens of attempts at attracting and rearing the newly-described flies with various substrates, however, our work failed to fully uncover any of the 43 life histories. Examination of collection data from preserved phorid flies in the extensive collection of the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County offered few clues, none of which we were able to replicate in our work. Three of the new species were collected from a soil emergence trap, but this offers only partial data for their life histories. Our inability to attract these flies to a variety of decomposing materials, the supposed generalized larval food of phorid flies,
points to the exciting potential for previously unrecorded, diverse, and specialized life histories.