New DNA barcoding project aims at tracking down the “dark taxa” of Germany’s insect fauna

  • Pensoft Editorial Team
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  • February 3, 2021
  • New dynamic article collection at Biodiversity Data Journal is already accumulating the project’s findings

    About 1.4 million species of animals are currently known, but it is generally accepted that this figure grossly underestimates the actual number of species in existence, which likely ranges between five and thirty million species, or even 100 million. 

    Meanwhile, a far less well-known fact is that even in countries with a long history of taxonomic research, such as Germany, which is currently known to be inhabited by about 48,000 animal species, there are thousands of insect species still awaiting discovery. In particular, the orders Diptera (flies) and Hymenoptera (especially the parasitoid wasps) are insect groups suspected to contain a strikingly large number of undescribed species. With almost 10,000 known species each, these two insect orders account for approximately two-thirds of Germany’s insect fauna, underlining the importance of these insects in many ways.

    The conclusion that there are not only a few, but so many unknown species in Germany is a result of the earlier German Barcode of Life projects: GBOL I and GBOL II, both supported by the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research (Bundesministerium für Bildung und Forschung, BMBF) and the Bavarian Ministry of Science under the project Barcoding Fauna Bavarica. 

    In its previous phases, GBOL aimed to identify all German species reliably, quickly and inexpensively using DNA barcodes. Since the first project was launched twelve years ago, more than 25,000 German animal species have been barcoded. Among them, the comparatively well-known groups, such as butterflies, moths, beetles, grasshoppers, spiders, bees and wasps, showed an almost complete coverage of the species inventory.

    In 2020, another BMBF-funded DNA barcoding project, titled GBOL III: Dark Taxa, was launched, in order to focus on the lesser-known groups of Diptera and parasitoid Hymenoptera, which are often referred to as “dark taxa”. The new project commenced at three major German natural history institutions: the Zoological Research Museum Alexander Koenig (Bonn), the Bavarian State Collection of Zoology (SNSB, Munich) and the State Museum of Natural History Stuttgart, in collaboration with the University of Würzburg and the Entomological Society Krefeld. Together, the project partners are to join efforts and skills to address a range of questions related to the taxonomy of the “dark taxa” in Germany.

    As part of the initiative, the project partners are invited to submit their results and outcomes in the dedicated GBOL III: Dark Taxa article collection in the peer-reviewed, open-access Biodiversity Data Journal. There, the contributions will be published dynamically, as soon as approved and ready for publication. The articles will include taxonomic revisions, checklists, data papers, contributions to methods and protocols, employed in DNA barcoding studies with a focus on the target taxa of the project.

    “The collection of articles published in the Biodiversity Data Journal is an excellent approach to achieving the consortium’s goals and project partners are encouraged to take advantage of the journal’s streamlined publication workflows to publish and disseminate data and results that were generated during the project,”

    says the collection’s editor Dr Stefan Schmidt of the Bavarian State Collection of Zoology.

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    Find and follow the dynamic article collection GBOL III: Dark Taxa in Biodiversity Data Journal.

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