Till I acquired copies of gleanings from the ZSL Library archives by Jack Greatrex I had no information of John Romer’s discovery of different animal species in Hong Kong. A duplicate of his curriculum vitae ready a couple of 12 months earlier than his loss of life in 1982 confirmed he had found what have been then three new species of one thing completely totally different from, his pursuits in amphibians and reptiles however linked along with his work first as rodent management officer after which, extra extensively, as pest management officer for the Hong Kong Authorities.
Rats have parasites and in addition to gathering fleas discovered on rats, he additionally collected different attainable vectors of human illness, the tiny mites referred to as chiggers or harvest mites—the Trombiculidae, a household of arachnids. After an encounter with the microscopic chigger larvae in Guyana the very considered them makes me itch.
Romer despatched the mites collected from rats to Herbert Womersley (1889-1962) on the South Australian Museum in Adelaide. Womersley—extra on him in a future article—was the established world professional on the Acarina, mites and ticks, and continued to construct a significant assortment on the Museum. He named three species from the specimens Romer equipped: Garhliepia romeri, Helenicula hongkongensis, Acomatacarus romeri.
What has occurred extra lately? Do they nonetheless stand as ‘good’ species or have been they synonyms of beforehand described species? Fortuitously I discovered a current guidelines of world Trombiculids. As an entire they go below a lot of widespread names along with chiggers and harvest mites which some reflecting their impact on the human inhabitants or as vectors of human illnesses: scrub-typhus mites, scrub-itch mites, pink mites, sand mites.
The current state of play
The primary named, Garhliepia romeri Womersley 1952 is now Gateria romeri and nonetheless a recognised species. The larva was collected by Romer from a rat acknowledged to be Rattus rattus* in 1950.
|Womersley’s determine displaying the scutum of
Womersley H. 1952. The scrub-typhus and scrub-itch mites (Trombiculidae, Acarina) of the asiatic-pacific area. Information of the South Australian Museum 10. Adelaide: South Australian Museum.
The second, Helenicula hongkongensis is now thought to be a synonymous with the sooner named Helenicula kohlsi, and due to this fact invalid. It was collected from Rattus rattus with the situation offered by Romer: The Peak, Center Hole Street. I ponder how the present homeowners of properties there—among the costliest on the planet—view their purchases being recorded in perpetuity because the habitat of rats carrying scrub-typhus mite larvae?
Womersley H. 1957. Malaysian Parasites—XXI. A small assortment of larval mites (Acarina, Trombiculidae and Leeuwenhoekiidae) from rats in Hong Kong. Research from the Institute for Medical Analysis, Federation of Malaya, 28, 105-112.
The third and the opposite eponymous species, named by Womersley in the identical publication, nonetheless stands as Odontacarus romeri.
In abstract John Dudley Romer has three at present recognised species named for him, one frog and two mites, all of which he found in Hong Kong within the Fifties.
…and I’m nonetheless itching.
*I’ve written beforehand of making an attempt to kind out the rats of Hong Kong. The mite larvae that Romer discovered have been described as from from Rattus rattus. Given the present state of information, it’s not attainable to state which of the at present recognised species in Hong Kong the mite larvae have been obtained from. The selection is between Rattus tanezumi, extra possible within the roof of buildings, and Rattus andamanensis, the free-living species on the hillsides.
Nielsen DH, Robbins RG, Rueda LM. 2021. Annotated world guidelines of the Trombiculidae and Leeuwenhoekiidae (1758– 2021) (Acari: Trombiculoidea), with notes on nomenclature, taxonomy, and distribution. Zootaxa 4967, 1-243. https://doi.org/10.11646/zootaxa.4967.1.1