A new species of firefly was discovered by Delaware State University professor Christopher Heckscher, according to the Delaware News Journal.
It was after dusk, when Heckscher traveled to a boggy peat forest in 2004 at the Nanticoke Wildlife Area near Seaford, a city located along the Nanticoke River in Sussex County, when he saw hundreds of fireflies flashing.
"I just knew right away that it was something unique," Heckscher told the Journal.
Heckscher was right: this new species: Photuris mysticalampas flashed their luminous pulse differently than another firefly, and is smaller, too. According to the Journal, University spokesman Carlos Holmes said the discovery of a new species by a scientist is very likely a first at Delaware State.
In general, new species are hard to find in 2013, and when they are discovered it's usually in the unexplored places of the world, and not in backyards and national parks.
To Heckscher, the discovery of the firefly is a nice reminder of "how much we have to learn," he told the Journal.
Heckscher's path into the taxonomic record book began in 2004 when he collected a firefly at Prime Hook National Wildlife Refuge and wasn't familiar with the rare species that would later be named Photuris mysticalampas, the Journal reported.
"I was looking for fireflies as part of a statewide survey to document the species that occur in Delaware, so I was trying to find rare or uncommon species that may have been overlooked," Heckscher said. "The flash pattern was unusual, and when I caught adults, I realized that the flash pattern did not match any known small fireflies that I knew of."
The Delaware professor decided to use a dichotomous key to compare characteristics, like the luminous flash patterns and its size, with other known firefly species. There are two methods used to identify new species: one is through genetics, and the second is by taking a detailed look at the characteristics of the species, according to the Journal.
According to the Journal, Heckscher drove his collection of firefly samples south to Florida to consult with one of the nation's foremost firefly experts: James E. Lloyd, professor emeritus in the Department of Entomology and Nematology at the University of Florida, who confirmed it was a new species.