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Over 100 new species discovered in Norway
Most of the new discoveries were of the biting midge variety.
You’ve no doubt been irritated by them on the terrace many a summer evening: biting midges so small that you hardly notice them until they start feeding on your blood, leaving countless itchy bites.
In Scotland – which has plentiful bog areas where midges thrive – midges become so numerous that they are actually considered the tourist industry’s greatest plague.
In Norway, these little tormentors mostly consist of only one genus and a few dozen species, in a rather species-rich midge family.
Only very few of the biting midge species feed on human blood. Keep this in mind when you learn that 58 midge species new to Norway have been found!
47 new species of water mites
“In this project, we surveyed biting midges, non-biting midges and water mites at around 100 locations in southern Norway. We also dealt with previously reported findings and cleaned up the species lists of Norwegian biting midges and water mites,” Elisabeth Stur says.
She is a researcher and project manager at the NTNU University Museum.
They also found 47 species of water mites, which are new to Norway. Stur explains that most of the species collected in the project have had their DNA analysed. The insects were assigned a DNA barcode.
“The barcode is a DNA signature that is characteristic of a species. It enables us to compare genetic characteristics of species and strains from different places in the world. International cooperation on databases with DNA barcodes means that we can compare the discoveries of species in many countries in a completely different way than before,” Stur says.
More than just a human tormentor
You may be among those who don’t get super enthusiastic at the thought of more biting midges and mites than we previously were aware of in Norway. But you should know that these are species with diverse ways of life and important roles to play in the natural world.
“Biting midges take in the most food as larvae. Depending on their habitat, they eat algae, fungi, plant remains or other animals. As adults, they can also live on nectar, pollen and other insects. And certain species feed on the blood of animals other than humans,” Stur explains.
Water mites are in many aspects a distant relative of ticks and other mites, but they do not suck blood from mammals.
“The adults are predators and crawl around on the bottom of streams, rivers and other bodies of water, where they hunt other invertebrates. The larvae are often parasites on aquatic insects and can hitchhike on adult flying insects,” she says.
Probably still more species to discover
Discovering over 100 new species in Norway is not exactly a daily occurrence.
Finding so many new species right now is probably a combination of factors, according to Stur.
“First, we’ve had funding from the Species Project to examine the fauna in southern Norway a little more systematically. Secondly, it’s been quite some time since anyone worked with biting midges in this way,” she says. "Although we’ve documented a lot of new species, there’s still plenty more to discover. Future projects will no doubt find more new water mites and biting midges in Norway."
About the study:
The water mites and midges project in southern Norway has been carried out with support from the Norwegian Biodiversity Information Centre’s species project.
Dominiak, P. and Stur, E. New findings and an overall assessment of Norwegian biting midges (Diptera, Ceratopogonidae), Norwegian Journal of Entomology, 2022.
Gerecke et al. A faunistic study of water mites (Hydrachnidia and Halacaridae) from southern Norway, Norwegian Journal of Entomology, 2022.
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