Biting Discovery: Entomologist Finds Host of New Aquatic Insect Species in Thailand

May 21, 2007

While in Thailand, a University of Missouri-Columbia researcher found a treasure trove of previously unknown information about aquatic insects in the country. In the process, he learned firsthand that a few of these little critters pack quite a punch when they bite.

"It's much, much worse than a bee or wasp sting," said Robert Sites, an entomologist in the College of Agriculture, Food and Natural Resources at the University of Missouri-Columbia. "It's actually not a sting; it's a bite. You'll be thinking about it a half hour or an hour. I was bitten in the pad of my little finger, and I felt intense pain all the way to my elbow for a good 30 minutes."

Working with researchers from universities in Thailand, Slovenia and the United States, Sites discovered more than 50 new insect species over a three-year period. His observations, which were funded by a grant from the National Science Foundation, took place in national parks around the country and focused on insects living in mountainous streams and waterfalls.

Of the discoveries, Sites has formally described 12 of the new insects and prepared written detailed analyses of their physical characteristics, which includes the colors and sizes of their heads, wings and legs, along with numerous other distinctive features. He said six belong to the family Gerridae, commonly referred to as water striders; the remaining are members of the family Aphelocheiridae. Despite the painful bite, none are dangerous to humans, Sites said.

Each is related to insect species that are found in other parts of the world - including the United States. Sites said the new insects, which possess names like Eotrechus elongatus and Ptilomera tennaserim, serve no specific ecological purpose other than to eat and reproduce.

"From a scientific perspective, they're all cool," he said. "Unfortunately, people always want to know what good are they; what is their purpose. They're just part of the ecosystem, part of nature. They don't have a particular purpose for humanity. They're predacious insects. They feed on other insects that they can overpower in the streams. Some even eat small fish. They're pretty ferocious predators."

Sites' findings and descriptions of the insects are being published on an on-going basis. His most recently published study, "A Review of Ptilomera (Heteroptera: Gerridae) in Thailand, with Descriptions of Three New Species," appeared in the March issue of Annals of the Entomological Society of America.

Source: University of Missouri

Explore further: Endangered butterfly recovering in some, not all, of range

Related Stories

Endangered butterfly recovering in some, not all, of range

July 26, 2015

More than 20 years of habitat restoration and breeding programs have helped the endangered Karner blue butterfly make a comeback in the pine barrens of upstate New York where it was discovered by Russian author Vladimir Nabokov ...

Rock theft destroying snake habitat

July 21, 2015

One of the oldest and most spectacular animals found in the Sydney basin has become a casualty of the city's love for bush gardens.

Fungi—key to tree survival in warming forest

July 20, 2015

Much like healthy bacteria in one's gut supports health of the human body, fungus in soil can be integral to survival of trees. NAU researcher Catherine Gehring reached this conclusion while studying pinyon-juniper woodlands ...

Ancient life in three dimensions

July 17, 2015

Hidden secrets about life in Somerset 190 million years ago have been revealed by researchers at the University of Bristol and the Bath Royal Literary and Scientific Institution (BRLSI) in a new study of some remarkable fossils. ...

Recommended for you

A cataclysmic event of a certain age

July 27, 2015

At the end of the Pleistocene period, approximately 12,800 years ago—give or take a few centuries—a cosmic impact triggered an abrupt cooling episode that earth scientists refer to as the Younger Dryas.

New blow for 'supersymmetry' physics theory

July 27, 2015

In a new blow for the futuristic "supersymmetry" theory of the universe's basic anatomy, experts reported fresh evidence Monday of subatomic activity consistent with the mainstream Standard Model of particle physics.

Dense star clusters shown to be binary black hole factories

July 29, 2015

The coalescence of two black holes—a very violent and exotic event—is one of the most sought-after observations of modern astronomy. But, as these mergers emit no light of any kind, finding such elusive events has been ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.