California is recognised as an area of exceptional biodiversity, with a wide range of habitats within the boundaries of the state, including the California Floristic Province, which includes many plant species not found elsewhere, such as the Sequoias of the Sierra Nevada, giant Coniferous trees which can reach over 100 m in height. Despite the recognised importance of Californian biodiversity, Fungus Gnats, Mycetophilidae, (tiny members of the True Fly order, Diptera, which feed largely on Fungus spores) have been poorly studied in the state (as in most places). A program to rectify this has been launched in recent years, with Fungus Gnats being sampled at sites across California in an attempt to understand their biodiversity.
In a paper published in the journal ZooKeys on 28 August 2014, Peter Kerr of the California State Collection of Arthropods at the CaliforniaDepartment of Food and Agriculture, describes a new species of Fungus Gnat from the giant Sequoia forests of the Sierra Nevada Mountains in California.
The new species is named Spritella sequoiaphila, where ‘Spritella’ means ‘Little Sprite’ and ‘sequoiaphila’ means ‘Sequoia-lover’. The species is described from 22 male and 13 female specimens, collected in Tulare, Calaveras and Glenn counties at altitudes of between 1310 and 1650 m above sea-level. The males are 4.6-6.6 mm in length, the females 4.4-5.5 mm. All are brown in colour.
Spritella sequoiaphila, male in lateral view. Scale bar is 1 mm. Kerr (2014).
Fungus Gnats are small (2-5 mm) flies with larvae that feed on fungi and plant roots, for which reason they are often considered a pest, though most species are essentially harmless. The adults are short lived, but play an important role in the pollination of some plants, and the spread of some fungal spores.
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