Insects Taking Over: Dr David Mifsud – Think Magazine
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An article in the latest edition of the University of Malta’s Think magazine looks at the subject of`insects taking over.’ Insects, often thought of as pests, make up around one million species worldwide. Between 6,000 and 8,000 of them can be found on the Maltese Islands. Among those, Dr David Mifsud (Institute of Earth System, University of Malta), has discovered a new species.
Mifsud’s love for insects began at an early age and developed in sixth form and university. As part of his doctorate, he revised 30 new species from South East Asia and the African Tropical Region. Since then his research has thrived. One of his most recent discovery is the gall midge (Asphodylia scopuli) that causes pea-like growths on the endemic saltbush plant.
Another interesting species identified from Mifsud’s field sample is the asexually reproducing booklouse (Peripsocus stagnivagus). The eggs produced do not need to be fertilised and are normally all females, but the finding of a male in Malta linked the species to that found in the Palearctic and the new world.
Mifsud has also described around 1,800 species of insects. He did this by gathering samples of the insects, and then identifying them according to their distinguishing characteristics. For this, a key, which is a tool that can be used to identify species, is usually used.
He notes that the process of identification can be difficult as with some species little is known. Insects are vital to safeguard nature: pollinating flowers and crops, controlling pests, and consuming waste material.
Being the most abundant animal of the Maltese islands, without knowledge on this group understanding of the local environment and its maintenance would be severely limited, he says.
This research also gives better understanding of species interactions and their environmental impact and what is known so far, is only a fraction of what is yet to be discovered.
For more read the in-depth feature in Think magazine: www.um.edu.mt/think/insects-taking-over