Honoured with his own midge species

Per Alström now has two species, a bird and a midge, named after him.

Per Alström now has two species, a bird and a midge, named after him.

Hello to Per Alström, researcher at the Department of Ecology and Genetics. You’ve had a midge named after you. Congratulations! How come?

“I was just as surprised as anyone else, since I’m an ornithologist and have never worked on midges. Mathias and Catrin Jaschhof, a German couple, are two of the world's foremost gall midge taxonomists. Because Sweden has such an extensive fauna of gall midges, they’ve worked in this country for many years. Being interested in birds, they thought they’d pay this kind of tribute to me for my avian research.”

How does that feel?
“It’s very nice and a huge honour. In their description, they wrote: ‘This new Camptomyia is named to honour Per Alström, Professor at Uppsala University and one of the leading figures in contemporary avian systematics.’ I really want to highlight their outstanding research on Scandinavian gall midges over the past 15 years. As a result, the known diversity is much higher than anyone could ever have imagined previously. They’ve identified more than 800 species in Sweden in a group of gall midges, and estimate that some 1,000 species exist in that group. In 1994, only about 50 species were known.”

How many organisms can there be in the world?
“Actually, we have no idea. The only list of the world’s species that exists includes more than 1.8 million, but the compilation isn’t complete yet. There are estimates of 10 million or more. In fact, the decrease in biodiversity is an even bigger problem than climate change. The way we’re driving species to extinction is going to have far-reaching consequences, since we depend on biodiversity for our own existence.”

Camptomyia alstromi. Photo: Mathias Jaschhof

What is this midge that now bears your name?
“A gall midge. There are no blood-sucking midges – the larvae probably live in fungi. Camptomyia alstromi, as it’s called, was discovered in oak and pine forests on the Särö peninsula in Kungsbacka, on the West Coast of Sweden, but it’s likely to have a larger range than that.”

Have you had species named after you before?
“I described a new bird species from China and we just gave it the scientific name Seicercus soror, with no English name. When the Handbook of the Birds of the World was published some years later, the editors decided it should be called Alström’s Warbler, which is now the established name.”

How many species have you personally found?
“I’ve been involved in describing seven new bird species from Asia. I’ve also taken part in describing three bird subspecies, two of which are found in Africa and the third in Southeast Asia.”

Åsa Malmberg

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