Estimating the diversity of the elusive fireflies

B. Nada, A.P. Beckerman, L.A. Ballantyne, K.L. Evans

Research output: Other contribution to conferencePresentation only


Large scale patterns in the structure of firefly assemblages are very rarely described, and the factors driving these patterns are thus very poorly understood. One of the reasons for this is because of the difficulty of obtaining complete sampling of firefly assemblages, due to their high diversity, and the pragmatic difficulties of working in remote locations at night. Numerous statistical methods are available to provide species richness estimates despite incomplete sampling. Here, we use a recently developed technique by Hsieh et al. 2016 that is implemented in the iNEXT package in R version 2.0.12. This tool kit estimates species richness by unifying sample-size and coverage-based rarefaction and extrapolation with the effective number of species, known as Hill numbers. We test the reliability of this method for estimating firefly species richness using a series of increasingly conservative tests that assess repeatability of richness estimates from sampling conducted in the same location: i) on consecutive nights, ii) five months apart, and iii) three years apart. Our samples are primarily derived from intensive sampling of firefly communities along five elevational gradients (200-1900 m above sea level) on the main mountain range in Peninsular Malaysia (Banjaran Titiwangsa) in 2015 with additional samples from two locations in 2016. This additional two locations were also sampled in 2013 and sampled twice in 2016 at 5 months apart. This sampling programme comprises the first systematic assessment of south-east Asian firefly assemblages along elevational gradients. All fireflies were classified into morphospecies, and all Luciolinae fireflies (which comprised 50.2% of collected individuals) were identified to species level. We use our results to explore the validity of the technique for reliably estimating firefly species richness. This enables numerous ecological questions that focus on the factors determining the structure of firefly assemblages to be addressed despite the difficulties of completely sampling firefly assemblages. We also use our data for a preliminary analysis of elevational patterns in firefly diversity, including using the Sorensen dissimilarity index to assess spatial turnover and nestedness of firefly composition along each elevational gradient and between transects. In addition, within the 15 species of Luciolinae fireflies that were identified we discovered 6 previously undescribed species, which includes members of a previously undescribed genera. These findings provide additional evidence for the vastly under-recorded diversity of fireflies in south-east Asia.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages1
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2017
Event2017 International Firefly Symposium - Taipei Zoo, Taipei, Taiwan, Province of China
Duration: 24 Apr 201728 Apr 2017 (Conference website) (Conference proceedings)


Conference2017 International Firefly Symposium
Country/TerritoryTaiwan, Province of China
OtherOn behalf of all my colleagues in the organizing committee, it gives me a great pleasure to announce as well as invite you at our International Firefly Symposium 2017 (IFS 2017) during April 24-28, 2017 at Taipei, Taiwan.

The major firefly season and people celebrate the beauty of twinkling around the island is between late March and June. Following the tradition of previous firefly symposia, we will hold this meeting at the peak of firefly season. The symposium has been designed to bring all the firefly researchers to exchange their professional experiences to update the participants with current research advances. Please encourage your colleagues and students to attend the symposium and share, in either way of oral or poster presentation, the latest results of firefly researches with participants from all around the world.

In addition to a serial of oral and poster presentations in the first three days, all participants are invited to take a free field trip to Alishan National Scenic Area (ANSA). About 2/3 of firefly species in Taiwan have been recorded in this beautiful area so far. The eco-tourism for firefly in ANSA became vigorously since 2000. We will have a 2-day workshop in ANSA on the issues of conservation and eco-tourism of firefly. Thanks to the Administration of ANSA, this field trip is fully supported by the Administration and no extra cost to our participants!
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