Jebel Hafit study finds new insects for UAE

A study of a group of small insects in the Jebel Hafit area of Al Ain by a researcher from the UAE University has identified seven species that had never before been reported from the UAE, according to a paper published earlier this month in a Polish academic journal, Acta entomologica silesiana.

The insects, called Neuroptera in Latin or lacewings in English, were collected by Huw Roberts, of University College, UAE University, during detailed fieldwork in two locations adjacent to Jebel Hafit, Ain Al Wa’al, on the western side of the mountain, close to the border with Oman, and Wadi Tarabat, on the north-eastern edge. The Ain Al Wa’al study was carried out throughout 2014 and 2015, with work at Wadi Tarabat being undertaken in early 2016.

The specimens, along with other small insects, were collected by light trapping, with the placing of netting over vegetation also being used in the Ain Al Wa’al area.

Roberts’ studies at Ain Al Wa’al were partially funded by the Mohammed bin Zayed Species Conservation Fund.

Following collection of a total of 13 different lacewing species in the Al Ain area, 12 found at the two Jebel Hafit sites and one which was found in his own garden at Muwaiji, Roberts sought help on identification from two European specialists, Roland Doboscz, from Poland, and Levente Abraham, from Hungary, with a jointly-authored scientific paper then being produced.

Of the seven species recorded for the first time in the UAE, one was found at both Ain Al Wa’al and Wadi Tarabat, 2 only at Ain Al Wa’al and 3 only at Wadi Tarabat, with the seventh being found at Muwaiji.

Of these, two species had only previously been recorded in Saudi Arabia and one in Saudi Arabia and Oman, though the other species have a distribution stretching throughout the Middle East and, in some cases as far away as West Africa.

Lacewings are a group of insects that have only recently begun to attract attention from researchers in the UAE, with a number of studies having been published over the last few years.

The Ain Al Wa’al area is close to a major housing development programme and Roberts notes that the results of his study are intended to contribute to knowledge of the biodiversity of the area, which might, in turn, help in future conservation initiatives.

Although Wadi Tarabat is currently largely undisturbed, it is also an area whose biodiversity is little known and potentially under threat.

"The results of these studies in two relatively small areas provide further evidence that there is still much to learn about the UAE’s biodiversity," Roberts told WAM.

Specimens of several other groups of insects collected during his fieldwork are still being studied, he added.

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