Atenean Zoologist receives award at International Conference

January 17, 2022
Karl Eli Alconis

Emmanuel Delocado, a faculty member at the Loyola Schools' Department of Biology, was awarded Second Place for Best Full Talk in the Zoology Division at the 2021 Young Systematists' Forum. The event was organized by the Natural History Museum London, Royal Botanic Gardens Kew, and The Systematics Association Council.

Emmanuel Delocado

Delocado's presentation, entitled "Small, dark, hairy, but many: Updates on resolving the phylogeny of Limnichidae Erichson, 1846 (Insecta: Coleoptera), with a description of 21 new species through integrative taxonomic approach", focused on the taxonomic revision of the Limnichidae family. The study was part of Delocado's doctoral dissertation. Aside from Delocado, the other researchers who helped in the study were Dr. Henrik Freitag, Alessandro Nardi, and Ignacio Ribera.

Delocado received an award from the 2021 Young Systematists' Forum for his research.

The Young Systematists' Forum was not the first time Delocado's research was recognized. In November 2021, Delocado's discovery of two new species Byrrhinus negrosensis and Byrrhinus villarini (named after former Ateneo president Fr. Jose Ramon T. Villarin), was published in an academic journal. These discoveries are notable, as the Byrrhinus negrosensis and Byrrhinus villarini are the first new Byrrhinus species that have been found in the Philippines in the last twenty-eight years. In May 2021, part of his study also won Best Oral Presentation (Zoology) at a conference held by the Association of Systematic Biologists of the Philippines (ASBP).

Taxonomic revision, which was the primary goal of Delocado's research, focuses on surveys and evaluates the diversity of various levels of organization. In Delocado's study, it was about the family Liminichidae. He sought to interrogate the validity of Limnichidae as a group, which had been the subject of debate. In his research, Delocado provided molecular and morphological evidence for the validity of the family. During his dissertation, he was able to identify no less than 21 new species, including the above mentioned.

Byrrhinus negrosensis and Byrrhinus villarini

In a world experiencing what has been dubbed as the Sixth Mass Extinction, Delocado describes his research as contributing valuable knowledge on these lesser-known species, which, without intervention, would have remained undiscovered. Moreover, by providing baseline information on what already exists, one may develop a better understanding of how to protect the Philippines' biodiversity.

His interest in the top started when he read a 2016 article written by Dr. Freitag. In it, he discussed the gap in the knowledge on beetles, specifying on the existence of at least 20 unidentified species. Delocado’s attention was spurred by his concern for the beetle, an animal which some may not find appealing and thus, may be overlooked in terms of biodiversity conservation. 

Despite the challenges brought on by the pandemic—lack of access to laboratory equipment and difficulty in conducting field work, they were able to complete the project. 

Delocado cites the massive support of his adviser, Dr. Freitag, and the various departments and offices in the university: the Department of Biology, the Ateneo Research Institute of Science and Engineering, the School of Science and Engineering, and the Office of the Vice President for the Loyola Schools.

Just as his study highlighted the need to assess these animals, Delocado is hopeful that students interested in doing research will join the fight for biodiversity and continue what he and those before him have contributed, emphasizing the amount of knowledge needed to be uncovered.

 "I hope that the discovery of the new species, together with the rest of the study, would show the students that there is more to be discovered in the world out there."