Thursday, March 17, 2011

Aphanus rolandri, a European seed bug species named after Daniel Rolander

Daniel Rolander belonged to the circle of Swedish students, which Linnaeus sent around the world to find new species. In contrast to Christopher Tärnström, a student Linnaeus liked, Daniel Rolander was not one of his favorite students. Linnaeus named a European seed bug species, not to honor, but to insult him: Aphanus rolandri. The Greek word Aphanus stands for ignoble and obscure [1].

Rolander was sent to Suriname in South America, where he grew overwhelmingly terrified and from where he reported about terrible species including thorny trees and bushes, rotting fruit with a stench that can kill and big snakes [anacondas?], lizards, insects and other animals ready to attack. In 2007, Rolander's seven hundred pages of journals (written in Latin), archived in a botanical library at Denmark's Natural History Museum in Copenhagen, were translated and made public [1]. Apparently, he collected many thousands of specimen, which he was not going to hand over to his mentor, when he returned to Uppsala...

Among “Rolander's species” is the carabid beetle Galerita americana, which lives primarily in the tropical forest canopy. On the other hand, the bug species of the family Lygaeidae, which carries Rolander's name, is less exotic, yet a scarce species that is mostly found in the south of England between Cornwall and Kent [2]. It lives in dry, sheltered and well-drained habitats which have a thin covering of leaf litter or stones. With a dark red or orange spot at the base of the wing membrane on its otherwise black body, Aphanus rolandri appears quite beautiful and unique—a distinctive ground bug Daniel Rolander would not have been afraid of.

Keywords: entomology, hemiptera, history, insects, beetles

[1] Rob R. Dunn: Every Living Thing. First Edition. HarperCollins Publishers, New York, 2009; pages 62-64 and footnote on page 61.
[2] British Bugs: Aphanus rolandri.
[3] Wikipedia: Daniel Rolander.

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