Changfa Zhou, a professor in the College of Life Sciences at Nanjing Normal University, who has dedicated his research to mayflies (insects in the order Ephemeroptera) since he was a graduate student starting in 1994, recently received a grant to write the first volume on Chinese mayflies to be included in the series Fauna Sinica, which he will begin in 2018.
Fauna Sinica is a serial Chinese monograph on animals, aiming to document the characteristics, taxonomy, distribution and biodiversity of all extant animals in China. This national systematic program was started in 1956 and up until now, more than 150 volumes have been published. Fauna Sinica forms the cornerstone of the research in the field of biodiversity, biological evolution and systematics. In addition, it provides a scientific basis for the using and finding of animal resources, the control of pests and the protection and conservation of endangered or rare species. By producing such a complex series of books, groups of the most famous and authoritative experts and taxonomists on animals have made significant contributions.
This is the first time that the mayfly, a group of winged insects with a long series of primitive and unique characteristics in Ephemeroptera, will be included in the series. Professor Zhou has specialized in the study of mayflies for more than two decades. During this time period, he has discovered and confirmed hundreds of mayfly species including several rare and endemic ones which have astonishing primitive and plesiomorphic characteristics that exemplify mayfly evolution and phylogeny. The awarding of this grant to complete this important task is not only a nod to his longtime work and deep expertise, but also gives him an important job to do and a new goal to achieve.
“Upon receiving the notice and hearing the news, I felt both enormous pressure and happiness For one thing, it’s a very large responsibility to take on. Fauna Sinica is just like a dictionary. When you come across some new words you don’t know, you will have to turn to the dictionary. It is the same when researchers look for information about unfamiliar animal species in Fauna Sinica. Because Fauna Sinica is one of the most fundamental resources used by scientists in the research of animals in China, it is crucial to make sure there are no errors. For another, I am really honored to be included in this project. Since it is such an important program, it could be seen as an official recognition of my academy and profession.” said Professor Zhou.
Professor Zhou mentioned three main challenges of this project. First of all, before 1949, a great many of mayfly species in China were studied by foreigners and their specimens are now scattered overseas. It will be a huge endeavor to conduct a closer and more careful check of these species. Secondly, the vast area of China’s land and its environmental diversity will add to the difficulty of collecting more specimens, especially in some remote areas. Finally, since teaching classes and doing other research already takes up a large amount of time, he will have to make an effort to spare some time for this compilation task.
Professor Zhou said,“ My short-term aim is to include about 150 species that are more commonly seen in China. I believe it would lay a solid foundation for further research. ”