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Study Finds Insects Previously Unknown to Science

 By Dr. Tim Mihuc

Aquatic insects. They are the energy that drives the food web in our lakes and streams. They power our fisheries.

Photo of newly discovered insect Perlesta mihucorum
Photo: Newly discovered insect Perlesta mihucorum.

Yet, very little is known about the creatures. Take those in the Adirondacks, for instance. No one knows the total number or the full variety of insect species in the park.

Recently, the college’s Lake Champlain Research Institute set out to change at least some of that.

Surprising Finds in the Adirondack Park

I joined forces with Luke Myers, an undergraduate at Paul Smith’s College, in a study of aquatic insect biodiversity in Adirondack streams.

The study looked specifically at three orders of aquatic insects, and, after seven years’ work, we documented more than 650 aquatic insect species: 183 mayflies, 132 stoneflies and 351 caddis flies.

What’s more, in doing so, we found at least five species previously unknown to science and 128 species that had never been reported in the state.

Luke, for his part, even had a chance to name some of them. In fact, he and Dr. Boris Kondratieff, a professor of entomology at Colorado State University, named one species of stonefly “Perlesta mihucorum” after me and my wife, Janet, an associate professor at Paul Smith’s College.

Need for Further Study

Both Luke and I were surprised at the diversity we found in the Adirondacks. As Luke put it, “There continues to be a need for further biodiversity research in the state.”

Maybe we don’t know as much about the Adirondack Park as we thought we did. Our study seems to suggest that it does function as a large reserve for biodiversity — in this case of aquatic fauna — not only for New York state but for the entire Northeast region.

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Photo of Tim MihucTim Mihuc is director of SUNY Plattsburgh’s Lake Champlain Research Institute and a professor of environmental sciences. He is also the recipient of the SUNY Chancellor’s Award for Scholarship and Creative Activity.