Manual on flies to follow conference

2010-03-17 00:00

ALTHOUGH most people think flies are disgusting, disease-carrying pests, they have been praised by entomologists (scientists that study insects) the world over for their ability to adjust to their environments and co-evolve with other organisms to become specialised parasites.

Flies (Diptera) are one of the largest orders of insect in the biosphere, but there is a shortage of practising fly specialists in Africa. This poses a problem as there are upwards of 30 000 undescribed species in the African region.

The international community has recognised the need for classification of the species as well as the importance of the insect.

The Natal Museum and the National Museum in Bloemfontein will be involved with the launch of the Afrotropical Diptera project, which will take place at the seventh International Congress of Dipterology in San Jose, Costa Rica, in August.

This will be the first major initiative on Afrotropical flies in 30 years and the first such initiative for any insect order on the African continent.

The aim of the conference is to encourage the study of dipterology, in Africa and beyond, and this will be done through the production of a manual on Afrotropical Diptera.

Burgert Muller, the curator of the department of natural sciences at the Natal Museum, will be attending the conference and along with his co-worker Mike Mostovski “will be deeply involved in the production of the manual as co-ordinators, authors and editors”, said Muller.

“The natural sciences department curates the most comprehensive and representative collection of Afrotropical Diptera on the continent, with approximately 2 500 types, 7 000 species and over 200 000 individual specimens,” said Muller. This material together with further national and international findings will form a foundation for the Manual of Afrotropical Diptera .

This manual will be aimed at practical systematists, applied entomologists, conservationists, all students of entomology and the public at large. The publication of the manual, which will be in two volumes, is proposed for 2015.

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