Scientists at the Royal Alberta Museum believe they may have discovered 24 tiny new bugs: microscopic creatures dozens of times smaller than the period at the end of this sentence.
After completing a large monitoring program last year where more than 4,500 microscopic specimens were obtained from over 1,200 stations across the province, scientists believe they have discovered 108 new mites to Alberta, 11 to Canada, and 24 that are completely new to science.
“Basically, what it shows is there are a lot of things out there that we haven’t really looked for,” said Dr. Tyler Cobb, a curator of invertebrate zoology at the museum.
Cobb says the total numbers of mite species that are now known to the province is greater than what is known in Saskatchewan and B.C. combined and that’s only from one year of sampling.
“The potential from what we can learn from that is exponential,” said Cobb who notes the bugs could be studied to look into how climate change is affecting Alberta.
Cobb says some of the tiny bugs can be studied to determine soil health in Alberta — a key indicator for a warming climate.
It’s too early to tell just how climate change is affecting the province as their research is still ongoing, says Cobb.
Museum spokeswoman Julianna Veldtman says the research program is an opportunity for the museum to build on its natural historical collections at an “unprecedented scale,” along with sharing Alberta’s latest science discoveries.