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Future Research

As is true in most areas of science, we understand far less about ceratopogonids than we actually do know about them. This webpage provides some of the basics of what we do know but, as indicated in a number of spots, there is much that we do not understand. Foremost, it is likely that thousands of species remain to be named and this is particularly true of tropical areas.  However, even in more temperate regions, many species need description. Clearly, an important initial step in organizing information about biodiversity is to have the players named and, at least for the Ceratopogonidae, they are being investigated by very few researchers, other than for the genus Culicoides – but even in that genus, there are very few undertaking revisions of groups of species and many are merely producing barcodes or descriptions of single species. After being named, it is important to interpret the evolutionary relationships between these species and this requires careful study of a wider anatomy and a broader understanding of other ceratopogonids (to polarize characters).

Although barcoding species, useful as it is, is seen by many as a panacea for interpreting biodiversity, in reality it gives us little biological insight. Although it may be interesting to know that there are 1,000 instead of just 100 species in a habitat, barcoding is a highly minimalistic portrayal of species. Knowing 600 basepairs in a sequence may tell us whether this is a distinctive species but understanding the biology of a species (in its different life stages), how it functions, its anatomy, its various behaviours and much more, are the basis of a comprehensive understanding of nature. This is the arena of systematists who are scholars of their groups.

The abundance and diversity of Ceratopogonidae in many aquatic and semiaquatic habitats strongly suggests that they are very important ecologically. Scientists have known for a long time that many of the small organisms on the planet play key roles in the ecological web of life and it is certain that the biting midges are no exception to this. From studies elsewhere, we know that biting midges play an important role as predators in aquatic systems and that the adults are important vectors of a wide array of diseases in many species of vertebrates (from amphibians to birds and mammals). Furthermore, it is interesting that in a number of cases that have been carefully studied, biting midges play an significant role in the pollination of tropical plants (as in cacao). Unfortunately, we know virtually nothing about these aspects of biting midges in most of the world.

In general, evolutionary biologists have discovered that the features of organisms are linked to their behaviour and life styles. In large measure, we know so little about the behaviour of biting midges, that it is certain that their many peculiar morphological structures will be related, once known, to peculiar and fascinating adaptations to their environment. Lots of further research is needed!