A newly discovered species of firefly, Oculogryphus chenghoiyanae, has been named after a “brave and selfless” Hong Kong organ donor by two scholars. It is the first species of firefly named after a Hongkonger.

“The species is named after Momo Hoi-yan Cheng, in honor of her contribution on saving a life as well as infusing positive energy and love to our Society. She bravely and selflessly donated two-thirds of her liver to a dying women she had never met before in April, 2017, Hong Kong,” the article published in the academic paper Zookeys on Thursday read.

Yiu Vor, chair of the Hong Kong Entomological Society, and Jeng Ming-luen, researcher of the National Museum of Natural Science in Taichung, Taiwan, decided on the name.

Momo Cheng Hoi-yan. /Zookeys.

Last year, when patient Tang Kwai-sze was in critical condition at Queen Mary Hospital owing to acute liver failure, her daughter made a desperate plea for a liver donation. At 17 years and nine months old, she was just three months short of her 18th birthday – the age whereby she could have donated her own liver in accordance with the Human Organ Transplant Ordinance.

On April 13, 26-year-old office clerk Cheng donated two-thirds of her liver to Tang. She had never met Tang before. The donation allowed Tang to survive for another week, after which she received a second liver donation from a dead patient.

Tang died in August last year, but Cheng said she did not regret her decision.

Cheng told Oriental Daily that she was surprised by the naming and grateful for the care and love she had received from the Hong Kong community.

Fluorescent under UV light

The new firefly species was first confirmed to be a new discovery in May last year.

Past specimens of the Oculogryphus genus were deposited in museums and there were only male specimens on record, but Yiu was able to collect live specimens of adults of both sexes of the newly discovered species in the field.

Females of the Oculogryphus chenghoiyanae can fluoresce with a blue-green light through the whole body under ultraviolet illumination. Photo: Zookeys.

Females of the newly discovered species can fluoresce with a blue-green light across their whole body under ultraviolet illumination – a newly found phenomenon.

“Light emitting females could be found on exposed rocks, concrete surfaces, soil surfaces, dead leaves and on fallen branches. When disturbed by a beam of white light, the females slowly moved into soft soil or under litter,” the paper read.

Kris Cheng

Kris Cheng is a Hong Kong journalist with an interest in local politics. His work has been featured in Washington Post, Public Radio International, Hong Kong Economic Times and others. He has a BSSc in Sociology from the Chinese University of Hong Kong. Kris is HKFP's Editorial Director.