GENERAL Santos City — Three new cricket species were discovered in Mindanao by a team composed of local and international researchers, an expert disclosed over the weekend.
Dr. Theresa Mundita Lim, executive director of the Asean Centre for Biodiversity (ACB), said the discovery in Del Carmen town in Siargao Island, Surigao del Norte proves the Philippines “is a country with a rich biodiversity.”
Siargao is also known as the country’s surfing capital.
The researchers discovered the unique mute cricket Paranisitra flavofacia, which, as the word suggests, does not produce sound unlike other typical crickets.
The two other new discoveries were the bark cricket (Endodrelanva siargaoensis) and the sword-tailed cricket (Trigonidium solis).
In a statement, Lim, a former executive at the Department of Environment and Natural Resources, said the discovery of the three species of crickets further proves there are still thousands of species in the Philippines that have yet to be discovered and identified.
“It also demonstrates that the Philippines is a critically important haven for biodiversity,” she stressed.
The researchers who discovered the new crickets include Sheryl Yap and Jessica Barbecho from University of the Philippines – Los Baños and their counterparts from the Russian Academy of Sciences, the National University of Singapore, and the Muséum National d’Histoire Naturelle in France.
The team discovered the “creepy creatures” during biodiversity surveys conducted last year in Siargao.
Crickets play an important role in maintaining the balance of the ecosystem. They renew soil minerals and decompose plant materials, contributing to soil richness which in turn ensures good habitats for plants and trees, ACB said.
Field crickets consume the seeds of weed species that may be invasive in garden ecosystems.
Crickets are also food for other animals, and even humans.
In a 2013 report, the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization said current farming and food production practices are unsustainable—but edible insects, such as crickets, are a viable, untapped resource that could help meet the food demands of the world’s expanding population.
Owing to the new species discoveries, Lim urged the youth to take up courses in biology or taxonomy.
According to the Secretariat of the Convention on Biological Diversity, the diminishing number of taxonomists is a major hindrance to biodiversity conservation.
Scientists estimate that more than 90 percent of the world’s species have yet to be discovered.
“Many of our species may be disappearing before we even know they exist. We need taxonomists to identify them. We can’t conserve what we don’t know,” Lim said.
Knowing our species will enable conservation policy and decision makers to make smart and appropriate decisions and strategies on how to conserve what is left of our biodiversity, she added
In 2011, the Philippine Biodiversity Expedition discovered some 300 new species.
The expedition was led by scientists from the California Academy of Sciences, joined by two dozen colleagues from the Philippines.
The discoveries included deep-sea armored corals, ornate sea pens, new sea urchins and sea stars, a shrimp-eating swell shark, over 50 colorful new sea slugs, and insects and spiders.
Dr. Terrence Gosliner, Dean of Science and Research Collections at the California Academy of Sciences and leader of the 2011 Philippine Biodiversity Expedition, described the country’s biodiversity as “remarkable.”
“Biodiversity in the Philippines is still relatively unknown, and we found new species during nearly every dive and hike as we surveyed the country’s reefs, rainforests, and the ocean floor,” he said.
Gosliner said the species lists and distribution maps that they created during the expedition will help inform future conservation decisions and ensure that this remarkable biodiversity is afforded the best possible chance of survival. (Bong S. Sarmiento of Mindanews)