We discovered a new species! Akainothrips francisi is the first unambiguously inquiline species of thrips (i.e. which lives and breeds in another species’ nest), and will appear in a forthcoming paper (see Publications). At Fowlers Gap I started finding lots of individuals within nests that I couldn’t identify using the book; when I visited my expert friend Laurence Mound, he declared he’d never seen it before either. He deals with new species all the time; when you work on something this small (thrips are ~2mm long), it is possible (or even likely) that you will bump into something new eventually, so it’s not that exciting really, but it’s a first for me and I was uber-excited.
Good job I’d been recording their numbers and counting their eggs. That was a good lesson for me to record as much information as possible – I had had a short argument with myself over whether it was worth counting eggs that were not of my study species. Turns out we’ve been able to show that the new species appears to cause a reduction in host survival and reproduction, and has a bigger effect in bigger nests. This is one of the first times that competition between a host and an inquiline (for space or resources within the nest) has been studied in detail.