As many as 24 assassin bugs new to science were discovered and described by Dr. Guanyang Zhang and his colleagues. In their article, published in the open access Biodiversity Data Journal, they describe the new insects along with treating another 47 assassin bugs in the same genus. To do this, the scientists examined more than 10,000 specimens, coming from both museum collections and newly undertaken field trips.
Assassin bugs are insects that prey upon other small creatures, an intriguing behavior that gives the common name of their group. There are some 7000 described species of assassin bugs, but new species are still being discovered and described every year.
Linnaeus, the Swedish scientist, who established the universally used Linnean classification system, described the first species (Zelus longipes) of Zelus in 1767. Back then, he placed it in the genus Cimex, from where it was subsequently moved to Zelus. All of Zhang & Hart’s new species are from the Americas. Mexico, Panama, Peru, Colombia and Brazil are some of the top countries harboring new species.
To conduct the research, Zhang examined more than 10,000 specimens and nearly all of them have been databased. These specimen records are now freely and permanently available to everybody. Zhang’s work demonstrates the value of natural history collections. The specimens used in his work come from 26 museums in nine countries. The discovery of the new species would not have been possible without these museums actively collecting and maintaining their insect collections.
It took more than a century for some of the new species to be formally recognized and described. The first specimens of the species Zelus panamensis and Zelus xouthos, for example, had been collected in 1911 and 1915 from Panama and Guatemala. However, since then they had been waiting quietly in the collection of the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History, USA. Now, over 100 years later, they are finally discovered and given scientific names.
Meanwhile, more recently collected specimens also turned out to be new species. Specimens of Zelus lewisi and Zelus rosulentus were collected in 1995 and 1996 from Costa Rica and Ecuador, about two decades ago, a timeframe considered relatively short for taxonomic research. These interesting patterns of time lapse between specimen collecting and scientific description suggest that it is equally important to examine both long deposited in museums specimens and those newly collected from the field.
The kind of research performed by Zhang and his colleagues is called revisionary taxonomy. In revisionary taxonomy a researcher examines a large number of specimens of a group of organisms of his or her interest. This can be either a monophyletic lineage or organisms from a particular region. The scientist’s goal is to discover and describe new species, but also examine and revise previously published species.
Besides describing new species, the present taxonomic monograph treats another 47 previously described species. Nearly all species now have images of both males and females and illustrations of male genitalia. Some of these insects are strikingly brightly colored and some mimic wasps.
Zhang G, Hart E, Weirauch C (2016) A taxonomic monograph of the assassin bug genusZelusFabricius (Hemiptera: Reduviidae): 71 species based on 10,000 specimens. Biodiversity Data Journal 4: e8150.doi: 10.3897/BDJ.4.e8150
Future Martian explorers might not need to leave the Earth to prepare themselves for life on the Red Planet. The Mars Society have built an analogue research site in Utah, USA, which simulates the conditions on our neighbouring planet.
Practicing the methods needed to collect biological samples while wearing spacesuits, a team of Canadian scientists have studied the diverse local flora. Along with the lessons that one day will serve the first to conquer Mars, the researchers present an annotated checklist of the fungi, algae, cyanobacteria, lichens, and vascular plants from the station in their publication in the open-access journal Biodiversity Data Journal.
Located in the desert approximately 9 km outside of Hanksville, Utah, and about 10 km away from the Burpee Dinosaur Quarry, a recently described bone bed from the Jurassic Morrison Formation, the Mars Desert Research Station (MDRS) was constructed in 2002. Since then, it has been continuously visited by a wide range of researchers, including astrobiologists, soil scientists, journalists, engineers, and geologists.
Astrobiology, the study of the evolution and distribution of life throughout the universe, including the Earth, is a field increasingly represented at the MDRS. There, astrobiologists can take advantage of the extreme environment surrounding the station and seek life as if they were on Mars. To simulate the extraterrestrial conditions, the crew members even wear specially designed spacesuits so that they can practice standard field work activities with restricted vision and movement.
In their present research, the authors have identified and recorded 38 vascular plant species from 14 families, 13 lichen species from seven families, 6 algae taxa including both chlorophytes and cyanobacteria, and one fungal genus from the station and surrounding area. Living in such extreme environments, organisms such as fungi, lichens, algae, and cyanobacteria are of particular interest to astrobiologists as model systems in the search for life on Mars.
However, the authors note that there is still field work to be executed at the site, especially during the spring and the summer so that the complete local diversity of the area can be captured.
“While our present checklist is not an exhaustive inventory of the MDRS site,” they explain, “it can serve as a first-line reference for identifying vascular plants and lichens at the MDRS, and serves as a starting point for future floristic and ecological work at the station.”
Sokoloff P, Hamilton P, Saarela J (2016) The “Martian” flora: new collections of vascular plants, lichens, fungi, algae, and cyanobacteria from the Mars Desert Research Station, Utah.Biodiversity Data Journal 4: e8176. doi: 10.3897/BDJ.4.e8176
Innovation in ‘Big Data’ helps address problems that were previously overwhelming. What we know about organisms is in hundreds of millions of pages published over 250 years. New software tools of the Global Names project find scientific names, index digital documents quickly, correcting names and updating them. These advances help “Making small data big” by linking together to content of many research efforts. The study was published in the open access journal Biodiversity Data Journal.
The ‘Big Data’ vision of science is transformed by computing resources to capture, manage, and interrogate the deluge of information coming from new technologies, infrastructural projects to digitise physical resources (such as our literature from the Biodiversity Heritage Library), or digital versions of specimens and records about specimens by museums.
Increased bandwidth has made dialogue among distributed data centres feasible and this is how new insights into biology are arising. In the case of biodiversity sciences, data centres range in size from the large GenBank for molecular records and the Global Biodiversity Information Facility for records of occurrences of species, to a long tail of tens of thousands of smaller datasets and web-sites which carry information compiled by individuals, research projects, funding agencies, local, state, national and international governmental agencies.
The large biological repositories do not yet approach the scale of astronomy and nuclear physics, but the very large number of sources in the long tail of useful resources do present biodiversity informaticians with a major challenge – how to discover, index, organize and interconnect the information contained in a very large number of locations.
In this regard, biology is fortunate that, from the middle of the 18th Century, the community has accepted the use of latin binomials such as Homo sapiens or Ba humbugi for species. All names are listed by taxonomists. Name recognition tools can call on large expert compilations of names (Catalogue of Life, Zoobank, Index Fungorum, Global Names Index) to find matches in sources of digital information. This allows for the rapid indexing of content.
Even when we do not know a name, we can ‘discover’ it because scientific names have certain distinctive characteristics (written in italics, most often two successive words in a latinised form, with the first one – capitalised). These properties allow names not yet present in compilations of names to be discovered in digital data sources.
The idea of a names-based cyberinfrastructure is to use the names to interconnect large and small distributed sites of expert knowledge distributed across the Internet. This is the concept of the described Global Names project which carried out the work described in this paper.
The effectiveness of such an infrastructure is compromised by the changes to names over time because of taxonomic and phylogenetic research. Names are often misspelled, or there might be errors in the way names are presented. Meanwhile, increasing numbers of species have no names, but are distinguished by their molecular characteristics.
In order to assess the challenge that these problems may present to the realization of a names-based cyberinfrastructure, we compared names from GenBank and DRYAD (a digital data repository) with names from Catalogue of Life to assess how well matched they are.
As a result, we found out that fewer than 15% of the names in pair-wise comparisons of these data sources could be matched. However, with a names parser to break the scientific names into all of their component parts, those parts that present the greatest number of problems could be removed to produce a simplified or canonical version of the name. Thanks to such tools, name-matching was improved to almost 85%, and in some cases to 100%.
The study confirms the potential for the use of names to link distributed data and to make small data big. Nonetheless, it is clear that we need to continue to invest more and better names-management software specially designed to address the problems in the biodiversity sciences.
Patterson D, Mozzherin D, Shorthouse D, Thessen A (2016) Challenges with using names to link digital biodiversity information. Biodiversity Data Journal, doi: 10.3897/BDJ.4.e8080.
We want to stress at this point that the import functionality itself is agnostic of the data source and any metadata file in EML 2.1.1 or 2.1.0 can be imported. We have listed these three most likely sources of metadata to illustrate the workflow.
In the remainder of the post, we will go through the original post from October 13, 2015 and highlight the latest updates.
At the time of the writing of the original post, the Biodiversity Information Standards conference, TDWG 2015, was taking place in Kenya. Data sharing, data re-use, and data discovery were being brought up in almost every talk. We might have entered the age of Big Data twenty years ago, but it is now that scientists face the real challenge – storing and searching through the deluge of data to find what they need.
As the rate at which we exponentially generate data exceeds the rate at which data storage technologies improve, the field of data management seems to be greatly challenged. Worse, this means the more new data is generated, the more of the older ones will be lost. In order to know what to keep and what to delete, we need to describe the data as much as possible, and judge the importance of datasets. This post is about a novel way to automatically generate scientific papers describing a dataset, which will be referred to as data papers.
The common characters of the records, i.e. descriptions of the object of study, the measurement apparatus and the statistical summaries used to quantify the records, the personal notes of the researcher, and so on, are called metadata. Major web portals such as DataONE, the Global Biodiversity Information Facility(GBIF), or the Long Term Ecological Research Network store metadata in conjunction with a given dataset as one or more text files, usually structured in special formats enabling the parsing of the metadata by algorithms.
To make the metadata and the corresponding datasets discoverable and citable, the concept of the data paper was introduced in the early 2000’s by the Ecological Society of America. This concept was brought to the attention of the biodiversity community by Chavan and Penev (2011) with the introduction of a new data paper concept, based on a metadata standard, such as the Ecological Metadata Language, and derived from metadata content stored at large data platforms, in this case the Global Biodiversity Information Facility (GBIF). You can read this article for an in-depth discussion of the topic.
Therefore, in the remainder of this post we will explain how to use an automated approach to publish a data paper describing an online dataset in Biodiversity Data Journal. The ARPHA system will convert the metadata describing your dataset into a manuscript for you after reading in the metadata. We will illustrate the workflow on the previously mentioned DataONE and GBIF.
As you can notice, this resource has two objects associated with it: metadata, which has been highlighted, and the dataset itself. Let’s download the metadata from the cloud! The resulting text file, “Blandy.235.1.xml”, or whatever you want to call it, can be read by humans, but is somewhat cryptic because of all the XML tags. Now, you can import this file to the ARPHA writing platform and the information stored in it would be used to create a data paper!Go to the ARPHA web-site, and click on “Start a manuscript,” then scroll all the way down and click on “Import manuscript”.
Upload the “blandy” file and you will see an “Authors’ page,” where you can select which of the authors mentioned in the metadata must be included as authors of the data paper itself. Note that the user of ARPHA uploading the metadata is added to the list of the authors even if they are not included in the metadata. After the selection is done, a scholarly article is created by the system with the information from the metadata already in the respective sections of the article:
Now, the authors can add some description, edit out errors, tell a story, cite someone – all of this without leaving ARPHA – i.e. do whatever it takes to produce a high-quality scholarly text. After they are done, they can submit their article for peer-review and it could be published in a matter of hours. Voila!
Let’s look at GBIF. Go to “Data -> Explore by country” and select “Saint Vincent and the Grenadines,” an English-speaking Caribbean island. There are, as of the time of writing of this post, 166 occurrence datasets containing data about the islands. Select the dataset from the Museum of Comparative Zoology at Harvard. If you scroll down, you will see the GBIF annotated EML. Download this as a separate text file (if you are using Chrome, you can view the source, and then use Copy-Paste). Do the exact same steps as before – go to “Import manuscript” in ARPHA and upload the EML file. The result should be something like this, ready to finalize:
To finish it up, we want to leave you with some caveats and topics for further discussion. Till today, useful and descriptive metadata has not always been present. There are two challenges: metadata completeness and metadata standards. The invention of the EML standard was one of the first efforts to standardize how metadata should be stored in the field of ecology and biodiversity science.
Currently, our import system supports the last two versions of the EML standard: 2.1.1 and 2.1.0, but we hope to further develop this functionality. In an upcoming version of their search interface, DataONE will provide infographics on the prevalence of the metadata standards on their site (as illustrated below), so there is still work to be done, but if there is a positive feedback from the community, we will definitely keep elaborating this feature.
Regarding metadata completeness, our hope is that by enabling scientists to create scholarly papers from their metadata with a single-step process, they will be incentivized to produce high-quality metadata.
Now, allow us to give a disclaimer here: the authors of this blog post have nothing to do with the two datasets. They have not contributed to any of them, nor do they know the authors. The datasets have been chosen more or less randomly since the authors wanted to demonstrate the functionality with a real-world example. You should only publish data papers if you know the authors or you are the author of the dataset itself. During the actual review process of the paper, the authors that have been included will get an email from the journal.
This project has received funding from the European Union’s FP7 project EU BON (Building the European Biodiversity Observation Network), grant agreement No 308454, and Horizon 2020 research and innovation project BIG4 (Biosystematics, informatics and genomics of the big 4 insect groups: training tomorrow’s researchers and entrepreneurs) under the Marie Sklodovska-Curie grant agreement No. 642241 for a PhD project titled Technological Implications of the Open Biodiversity Knowledge Management System.
Based on our earlier post, we will now go through our latest updates and highlight the new features that have been added since then.
Repositories and data indexing platforms, such as GBIF, BOLD systems, iDigBio, or PlutoF, hold, among other types of data, specimen or occurrence records. It is now possible to directly import specimen or occurrence records into ARPHA taxonomic manuscripts from these platforms [see Fig. 1]. We’ll refer to specimen or occurrence records as simply occurrence records for the rest of this post.
Until now, when users of the ARPHA writing tool wanted to include occurrence records as materials in a manuscript, they would have had to format the occurrences as an Excel sheet that is uploaded to the Biodiversity Data Journal, or enter the data manually. While the “upload from Excel” approach significantly simplifies the process of importing materials, it still requires a transposition step – the data which is stored in a database needs to be reformatted to the specific Excel format. With the introduction of the new import feature, occurrence data that is stored at GBIF, BOLD systems, iDigBio, or PlutoF, can be directly inserted into the manuscript by simply entering a relevant record identifier.
The functionality shows up when one creates a new “Taxon treatment” in a taxonomic manuscript in the ARPHA Writing Tool. To import records, the author needs to:
Locate an occurrence record or records in one of the supported data portals;
Note the ID(s) of the records that ought to be imported into the manuscript (see Tips and Tricks for screenshots);
Enter the ID(s) of the occurrence record(s) in a form that is to be seen in the “Materials” section of the species treatment;
Select a particular database from a list, and then simply clicks ‘Add’ to import the occurrence directly into the manuscript.
In the case of BOLD Systems, the author may also select a given Barcode Identification Number (BIN; for a treatment of BIN’s read below), which then pulls all occurrences in the corresponding BIN.
We will illustrate this workflow by creating a fictitious treatment of the red moss, Sphagnum capillifolium, in a test manuscript. We have started a taxonomic manuscript in ARPHA and know that the occurrence records belonging to S. capillifolium can be found on iDigBio. What we need to do is to locate the ID of the occurrence record in the iDigBio webpage. In the case of iDigBio, the ARPHA system supports import via a Universally Unique Identifier (UUID). We have already created a treatment for S. capillifolium and clicked on the pencil to edit materials [Fig. 2].
In this example, type or paste the UUID (b9ff7774-4a5d-47af-a2ea-bdf3ecc78885), select the iDigBio source and click ‘Add’. This will pull the occurrence record for S. capillifolium from iDigBio and insert it as a material in the current paper [Fig. 3].
This workflow can be used for a number of purposes. An interesting future application is the rapid re-description of species, but even more exciting is the description of new species from BIN’s. BIN’s (Barcode Identification Numbers) delimit Operational Taxonomic Units (OTU’s), created algorithmically at BOLD Systems. If a taxonomist decides that an OTU is indeed a new species, then he/she can import all the type information associated with that OTU for the purposes of describing it as a new species.
Not having to retype or copy/paste species occurrence records, the authors save a lot of efforts. Moreover, they automatically import them in a structured Darwin Core format, which can easily be downloaded from the article text into structured data by anyone who needs the data for reuse.
Another important aspect of the workflow is that it will serve as a platform for peer-review, publication and curation of raw data, that is of unpublished individual data records coming from collections or observations stored at GBIF, BOLD, iDigBio and PlutoF. Taxonomists are used to publish only records of specimens they or their co-authors have personally studied. In a sense, the workflow will serve as a “cleaning filter” for portions of data that are passed through the publishing process. Thereafter, the published records can be used to curate raw data at collections, e.g. put correct identifications, assign newly described species names to specimens belonging to the respective BIN and so on.
The work has been partially supported by the EC-FP7 EU BON project (ENV 308454, Building the European Biodiversity Observation Network) and the ITN Horizon 2020 project BIG4 (Biosystematics, informatics and genomics of the big 4 insect groups: training tomorrow’s researchers and entrepreneurs), under Marie Sklodovska-Curie grant agreement No. 642241.
Sawflies and wood wasps form a group of insects that feed mainly on plants when immature. Field work by Dr. Michael Skvarla, which was conducted during his Ph.D. research at the University of Arkansas, Fayetteville, USA, has uncovered 30 species of these plant-feeding wasps that were previously unknown in the state. The study is published it in the open access journal Biodiversity Data Journal.
After collecting sawflies in tent-like Malaise traps or hanging funnel traps, Dr. Michael Skvarla sent the specimens to retired sawfly expert Dr. David Smith for identification.
In total, 47 species were collected, 30 of which had not been found in Arkansas before. While many of the species are widespread in eastern North America, eight species were known only from areas hundreds of kilometers away.
“I knew that many insect groups had not yet been surveyed in Arkansas, but I was surprised that 66% of the sawfly species we found were new to the state,” Skvarla says.
“In addition, over a quarter of the newly recorded species represent large range extensions of hundreds of miles; Monophadnoides conspiculatus, for instance, was previously known only from the Appalachian Mountains. This work highlights how much basic natural history is left to discover about insects.”
Sawflies and wood wasps comprise the wasp suborder Symphyta and derive their common names from the serrated or saw-shaped ovipositor many species use to lay eggs into plant tissue, and because some species bore into wood.
While some sawfly and woodwasp species can be pests on crops or ornamental plants, most do not pose an economic concern, and all are harmless to people.
Skvarla M, Smith D, Fisher D, Dowling A (2016) Terrestrial arthropods of Steel Creek, Buffalo National River, Arkansas. II. Sawflies (Insecta: Hymenoptera: “Symphyta”). Biodiversity Data Journal 4: e8830. doi: 10.3897/BDJ.4.e8830
Two juveniles of Shiny Cowbird, a parasitic bird that lays its eggs in the nests of other birds, were spotted in the Andean city of Quito, Ecuador, for the first time. This finding represents an altitudinal expansion of approximately 500 m.
“The Shiny Cowbird is native to the lowlands of South America but within the last 100 years, it has been expanding its distribution to higher altitudes and latitudes” says the lead author.
The bird had already been noted from high altitudes in Bolivia and Perú, and in some localities in the Ecuadorian Andes. Since 2000, Juan Manuel Carrión, co-author and director of the Zoo in Quito, recalls observing Shiny cowbirds near his home in a valley near Quito at 2,300 m above sea level (asl). However, one has never before been reported from an altitude as high as 2,800 m asl.
Moreover, the fact that the observed individuals were juveniles means that the species is already breeding in the city.
“Such a significant expansion of reproductive birds, of approximately 500 m, could be related to human disturbances, like forest fragmentation or climate change,” adds Crespo-Pérez.
The observations took place at the PUCE campus about a year ago. Two juvenile Shiny cowbirds were seen parasitizing two different pairs of Rufous-collared Sparrow, one of the most common birds in Quito. The cowbirds displayed food-begging behaviors to adult sparrows, including chasing the sparrows on the ground and chanting intensely on bushes and tree branches.
“These observations mean that the birth mother of the cowbird laid her eggs in the nests of the sparrows, who inadvertently, became the cowbird’s foster parents and incubated, fed and cared for the it as if it were its own, even though the cowbird is almost twice as big,” says Miguel Pinto, co-author and professor at Escuela Politécnica Nacional, and former postdoctoral fellow at the Smithsonian Institution.
“The sparrows were not feeding fledglings of their own species, which suggests that the Cowbird could be having some negative effect on the Sparrow, at least on their ability to reproduce,” points out Tjitte de Vries, co-author and professor at PUCE.
There are several published reports of negative effects of Cowbirds on other birds, especially on species that are already endangered or have restricted distribution ranges. Therefore, this report of an expansion of the Shiny Cowbird towards higher altitudes may be of concern, mainly for native, endemic or endangered bird species.
Crespo-Pérez V, Pinto C, Carrión J, Jarrín E R, Poveda C, de Vries T (2016) The Shiny Cowbird, Molothrus bonariensis (Gmelin, 1789) (Aves: Icteridae), at 2,800 m asl in Quito, Ecuador.Biodiversity Data Journal 4: e8184. doi: 10.3897/BDJ.4.e8184
Urban wildlife is surprisingly understudied. We tend to know more about animals in exotic places than about those that live in our cities.
This is why researchers Emile Fiesler, president of Bioveyda Biological Inventories, Surveys, and Biodiversity Assessments, USA, and Tracy Drake, manager of the Madrona Marsh Preserve, looked into the fauna of the Madrona Marsh Preserve, California, a small nature preserve in one of the world’s largest metropolitan areas.
Consequently, they published the astonishing number of 689 species of invertebrates, which have managed to survive decades of farming and oil exploration, followed by development pressures, in the open access Biodiversity Data Journal. The study was minimally invasive as the live animals have been recorded with macro-photography.
Even though it is the insects that first developed the ability to fly, long before the dinosaurs became birds, the latter have always received the most of our attention. This major evolutionary breakthrough, which has occurred more than once in the past, is also a reason why insects are currently the most diverse animals on earth in terms of number of species.
“Insects and other invertebrates have filled all ecological niches and all corners of our planet,” explain the authors. “No surprise that these small creatures conquered our cities and invaded our homes as well.”
Most of the urban dwellers, however, have been introduced – accidentally or deliberately – by humans.
“The remainder – native ‘wild’ species – are able to survive in the city mainly due to their adaptivity,” they point out. “It is therefore surprising to find a number of flightless species in a small area surrounded by urbanization.”
The Madrona Marsh Preserve is located in Torrance, which is part of the Los Angeles metropolitan area. The greater Los Angeles Metropolitan area is one of the world’s largest, with a human population of more than 17 million.
The Madrona Marsh Preserve, boasting seasonal wetlands, is well known as a birdwatchers’ paradise. Besides birds, its other vertebrates (mammals, reptiles, amphibians, and fishes), as well as its flowering plants, are relatively well known. The invertebrate fauna of the Preserve, on the other hand, aside from butterflies and dragonflies, was virtually unknown.
Interestingly, night surveys revealed the presence of a ‘second shift’ diversity, or creatures seemingly complementary to those active during the day.
Among the long-time survivors are wingless camel crickets as well as velvet ants, which are wasps whose flightless females look like furry ants. Another curiosity that intrigued the researchers is an obscure flightless female bradynobaenid wasp.
The researchers were especially surprised by their encounter with a large Solifugid [image 3] – also known as Camel Spider or Wind Scorpion. Solifugids are little-known arachnids that are neither spiders, nor scorpions, and can grow up to 15 cm (6 in). Their order’s name Solifugae translates from Latin as “those that flee from the sun”.
All in all, the biodiversity study resulted in 689 species without a backbone, belonging to 13 classes, 39 orders, and 222 families, found on this island surrounded by urbanization.
“Not unlike the moas and dodos, these ‘island’ inhabitants stayed grounded through the ages,” acknowledge the researchers.
Fiesler E, Drake T (2016) Macro-invertebrate Biodiversity of a Coastal Prairie with Vernal Pool Habitat. Biodiversity Data Journal 4: e6732. doi: 10.3897/BDJ.4.e6732
About the authors:
Emile Fiesler is president of Bioveyda Biodiversity Inventories, Surveys, and Studies, and Tracy Drake is manager of the Madrona Marsh Preserve.
Although the second-largest and rather concrete metropolis in the United States might not be anywhere near one’s immediate association for a biodiversity hotspot, the fly fauna of Los Angeles is quite impressive. As part of BioSCAN, a project devoted to exploring the insect diversity in and around the city, a team of three entomologists report on their latest discovery – twelve new scuttle fly species. Their study is published in the open access Biodiversity Data Journal.
When they decided to revisit the specimens they had collected during the first year of the project as well as older museum collections, the authors of the present paper were in fact quite certain they were about to find a new batch of unknown flies.
Having already described so many new scuttle fly species, the latest twelve had initially gone undercover, all being rare and often represented by only one specimen among the total of 43,651 collected individuals.
“The remarkable diversity of biologies of these flies makes them a varied and essential group to document in any ecosystem,” the entomologists explain.
The extensive BioSCAN project is still ongoing thanks to its passionate staff, international collaborators and advisors, as well as the large number of students and volunteers. Being especially grateful for their help, the scientists have named one of the fly species M. studentorum and another one – M. voluntariorum. The project is currently in its second phase of collecting.
“These volunteers are critical to our operation, and have contributed to everything from public outreach in the NHM Nature Lab to specialized work on phorid flies,” point out the authors.
In the end, the researchers hope that they will get their message across to other taxonomists, funding agencies, institutions and the public alike. Urban environments with their fast-changing conditions and biodiversity profile, need constant attention and scientific curiosity.
“There is an enormous taxonomic deficiency, including, or, perhaps, especially, in rapidly changing urban environments,” they say. “Taxonomists and their funding agencies must give time, attention and money to the environments surrounding their towns and cities.”
“Baseline collections of urban fauna must be established in the present if there is hope for understanding the introductions and extinctions that will occur in the future,” they stress.
Hartop E, Brown B, Disney R (2016) Flies from L.A., The Sequel: A further twelve new species ofMegaselia (Diptera: Phoridae) from the BioSCAN Project in Los Angeles (California, USA).Biodiversity Data Journal 4: e7756. doi: 10.3897/BDJ.4.e7756