Pensoft collaborates with R Discovery to elevate research discoverability

Pensoft and R Discovery’s innovative connection aims to change the way researchers find academic articles.

Leading scholarly publisher Pensoft has announced a strategic collaboration with R Discovery, the AI-powered research discovery platform by Cactus Communications, a renowned science communications and technology company. This partnership aims to revolutionize the accessibility and discoverability of research articles published by Pensoft, making them more readily available on R Discovery to its over three million researchers across the globe.

R Discovery, acclaimed for its advanced algorithms and an extensive database boasting over 120 million scholarly articles, empowers researchers with intelligent search capabilities and personalized recommendations. Through its innovative Reading Feed feature, R Discovery delivers tailored suggestions in a format reminiscent of social media, identifying articles based on individual research interests. This not only saves time but also keeps researchers updated with the latest and most relevant studies in their field.

Open Science is much more than cost-free access to research output.

Lyubomir Penev

One of R Discovery’s standout features is its ability to provide paper summaries, audio readings, and language translation, enabling users to quickly assess a paper’s relevance and enhance their research reading experience significantly.

With over 2.5 million app downloads and upwards of 80 million journal articles featured, the R Discovery database is one of the largest scholarly content repositories.

At Pensoft, we do realise that Open Science is much more than cost-free access to research outputs. It is also about easier discoverability and reusability, or, in other words, how likely it is for the reader to come across a particular scientific publication and, as a result, cite and build on those findings in his/her own studies. By feeding the content of our journals into R Discovery, we’re further facilitating the discoverability of the research done and shared by the authors who trust us with their work,” said ARPHA’s and Pensoft’s founder and CEO Prof. Lyubomir Penev.

Abhishek Goel, Co-Founder and CEO of Cactus Communications, commented on the collaboration, “We are delighted to work with Pensoft and offer researchers easy access to the publisher’s high-quality research articles on R Discovery. This is a milestone in our quest to support academia in advancing open science that can help researchers improve the world.

So far, R Discovery has successfully established partnership with over 20 publishers, enhancing the platform’s extensive repository of scholarly content. By joining forces with R Discovery, Pensoft solidifies its dedication to making scholarly publications from its open-access, peer-reviewed journal portfolio easily discoverable and accessible.

Conferences across the continents: Pensoft’s events in Autumn 2023

Pensoft participated in several events all around the world in October and November 2023.

October and November 2023 were active months for the Pensoft team, who represented the publisher’s journals and projects at conferences in Europe, North America, South America, Oceania and Asia.

Let’s take a look back at all the events of the past two months.

The Biodiversity Information Standards Conference 2023

The Biodiversity Information Standards (TDWG) Conference, held from October 9-13 in Tasmania, Australia, brought together experts and stakeholders from the global biodiversity research community.

The annual gathering is a crucial platform for sharing insights, innovations, and knowledge related to biodiversity data standards and practices. Key figures from Pensoft took part in the event, presenting new ways to improve the management, accessibility, and usability of biodiversity data. 

Prof. Lyubomir Penev, founder and Chief Executive Officer of Pensoft, gave two talks that highlighted the importance of data publishing. His presentation on “The Biodiversity Knowledge Hub (BKH): A Crosspoint and Knowledge Broker for FAIR and Linked Biodiversity Data” underscored the significance of FAIR (Findable, Accessible, Interoperable, and Reusable) data standards. BKH is the major output from the Horizon 2020 project BiCIKL (Biodiversity Community Integrated Knowledge Library) dedicated to linked and FAIR data in biodiversity, and coordinated by Pensoft.

Prof. Lyubomir Penev, Pensoft founder and CEO.

He also introduced the Nanopublications for Biodiversity workflow and format: a promising new tool developed by Knowledge Pixels and Pensoft to communicate key scientific statements in a way that is human-readable, machine-actionable, and in line with FAIR principles. Earlier this year, Biodiversity Data Journal integrated nanopublications into its workflow to allow authors to share their findings even more efficiently.

Chief Technology Officer of Pensoft Teodor Georgiev contributed to the conference by presenting “OpenBiodiv for Users: Applications and Approaches to Explore a Biodiversity Knowledge Graph.” His session highlighted the innovative approaches being taken to explore and leverage a biodiversity knowledge graph, showcasing the importance of technology in advancing biodiversity research.

Teodor Georgiev (right), Pensoft CTO.

Many authors and editors at Biodiversity Data Journal also spoke at the TDWG conference, including Vince Smith, the journal’s editor-in-chief, who is Head of Digital, Data, and Informatics at the Natural History Museum. He delivered insightful presentations on digitising natural science collections and utilising AI for insect collections.

GEO BON Global Conference 2023

GEO BON’s Global Conference on Biodiversity and Monitoring took place from 10-13 October 2023 in Montreal, Canada.

Metabarcoding and Metagenomics editor-in-chief, Florian Leese.

The theme of the conference was “Monitoring Biodiversity for Action” and there was particular emphasis on the development of best practices and new technologies for biodiversity observations and monitoring to support transformative policy and conservation action.

Metabarcoding & Metagenomics’ editor-in-chief, Florian Leese, was one of the organisers of the “Standardized eDNA-Based Biodiversity Monitoring to Inform Environmental Stewardship Programs” session. Furthermore, the journal was represented at Pensoft’s exhibition booth, where conference participants were able to discuss metabarcoding and metagenomics research.

Following the conference, Metabarcoding & Metagenomics announced a new special issue titled “Towards Standardized Molecular Biodiversity Monitoring.” The special issue is accepting submissions until 15th March 2024.

Asian Mycological Congress 2023

The Asian Mycological Congress welcomed researchers from around the world to Busan, Republic of Korea, for an exploration of all things fungi from 10-13 October. 

MycoKeys Best Talk award (winner not pictured).

Titled “Fungal World and Its Bioexploitation – in all areas of basic and applied mycology,” the conference covered a range of topics related to all theoretical and practical aspects of mycology. There was a particular emphasis on the development of mycology through various activities associated with mycological education, training, research, and service in countries and regions within Asia.

As one of the sponsors of the congress, Pensoft proudly presented a Best Talk award to Dr Sinang Hongsanan of Chiang Mai University, Thailand. The award entitles the winner to a free publication in Pensoft’s flagship mycology journal, MycoKeys.

Joint ESENIAS and DIAS Scientific Conference 2023

The ESENIAS and DIAS conference took place from 11-14 October and focused on “globalisation and invasive alien species in the Black Sea and Mediterranean regions.” Pensoft shared information on their NeoBiota journal and the important REST-COAST and B-Cubed projects.

Polina Nikova receiving the NeoBiota Best Talk Award.

Polina Nikova of the Bulgarian Academy of Sciences received the NeoBiota Best Talk Award for her presentation titled “First documented records in the wild of American mink (Neogale vision von Schreber, 1776) in Bulgaria.” The award entitles her to a free publication in the NeoBiota journal.

XII European Congress of Entomology

Pensoft took part in the XII European Congress of Entomology (ECE 2023) in Heraklion, Crete, from 16-20 October. The event provided a forum for entomologists from all over the world, bringing together over 900 scientists from 60 countries.

Carla Stoyanova, Teodor Metodiev and Boriana Ovcharova representing Pensoft.

The ECE 2023, organised by the Hellenic Entomological Society, addressed the pressing challenges facing entomology, including climate change, vector-borne diseases, biodiversity loss, and the need to sustainably feed a growing world population. The program featured symposia, lectures, poster sessions, and other types of activities aimed at fostering innovation in entomology. For Pensoft, they were a great opportunity to interact with scientists and share their commitment to advancing entomological research and addressing the critical challenges in the field.

Throughout the event, conference participants could find Pensoft’s team at thir booth, and learn more about the scholarly publisher’s open-access journals in entomology. In addition, the Pensoft team presented the latest outcomes from the Horizon 2020 projects B-GOOD, Safeguard, and PoshBee, where the publisher takes care of science communication and dissemination as a partner.

XIV International Congress of Orthopterology 2023

The XIV International Congress of Orthopterology, held from 16-19 October in Mérida, Yucatán, México, was a landmark event in the field of orthopterology.

Group photo of XIV International Congress of Orthopterology 2023 participants.

Hosted for the first time in Mexico, it attracted experts and enthusiasts from around the world. The congress featured plenary speakers who presented cutting-edge research and insights on various aspects of grasshoppers, crickets, and related insects.

Pensoft’s Journal of Orthoptera Research was represented by Tony Robillard, the editor-in-chief, who presented the latest developments of the journal to attendees.

Symposia, workshops, and meetings facilitated discussions on topics like climate change impacts, conservation, and management of Orthoptera. The event also included introductions to new digital and geospatial tools for Orthoptera research.

The 16th International Conference on Ecology and Management of Alien Plant Invasions

The 16th International Conference on Ecology and Management of Alien Plant Invasions (EMAPI 2023) took place in Pucón, Chile, from 23-25 October . The conference focused on the promotion of diversity in the science and management of biological invasions. Several NeoBiota authors ran sessions at the conference, and the journal also presented a Best Talk Award.

4th International ESP Latin America and Caribbean Conference

The 4th International ESP Latin America and Caribbean Conference (ESP LAC 2023) was held in La Serena, Chile, from 6-10 November. Focused on “Sharing knowledge about ecosystem services and natural capital to build a sustainable future,” the event attracted experts in ecosystem services, particularly from Latin America and the Caribbean.

Organised by the Ecosystem Services Partnership, this bi-annual conference was open to both ESP members and non-members, featuring a hybrid format in English and Spanish. Attendees enjoyed an excursion to La Serena’s historical center, adding a cultural dimension to the event.

The conference included diverse sessions and a special recognition by Pensoft’s One Ecosystem journal, which awarded full waivers for publication to the authors of the three best posters.

Magaly Aldave receiving the Best Poster Award.

Magaly Aldave of the Transdisciplinary Center for FES-Systemic Studies claimed first prize with “The voice of children in the conservation of the urban wetland and Ramsar Site Pantanos de Villa in Metropolitan Lima, Peru.” Ana Catalina Copier Guerrero and Gabriela Mallea-Rebolledo, both of the University of Chile, were awarded second and third prize respectively.

Biosystematics 2023

Biosystematics 2023, held from 26-30 November at the Australian National University in Canberra, was a collaborative effort of the Australian Biological Resources Study, Society of Australian Systematic Biologists, Australasian Mycological Society, and Australasian Systematic Botany Society. Themed “Celebrating the Past | Planning the Future,” the conference provided a platform for exploring advancements in biosystematics.

The event featured in-person and online participation, catering to a wide audience of researchers, academics, and students. It included workshops, presentations, and discussions, with a focus on enhancing understanding in biosystematics.

Pensoft awarded three student prizes at the event. Putter Tiatragu, Australian National University, received the Best Student Talk award and a free publication in any Pensoft journal for “A big burst of blindsnakes: Phylogenomics and historical biogeography of Australia’s most species-rich snake genus.”

Helen Armstrong, Murdoch University, received the Best Student Lightning Talk for “An enigmatic snapper parasite (Trematoda: Cryptogonimidae) found in an unexpected host.” Patricia Chan, University of Wisconsin-Madison, was the Best Student Lightning Talk runner-up for “Drivers of Diversity of Darwinia’s Common Scents and Inflorescences with Style: Phylogenomics, Pollination Biology, and Floral Chemical Ecology of Western Australian Darwinia (Myrtaceae).”

As we approach the end of 2023, Pensoft looks back on its most prolific and meaningful year of conferences and events. Thank you to everyone who contributed to or engaged with Pensoft’s open-access journals, and here’s to another year of attending events, rewarding important research, and connecting with the scientific community.

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Pensoft among the first 27 publishers to share prices & services via the Journal Comparison Service by Plan S

All journals published by Pensoft – each using the publisher’s self-developed ARPHA Platform – provide extensive and transparent information about their costs and services in line with the Plan S principles.

In support of transparency and openness in scholarly publishing and academia, the scientific publisher and technology provider Pensoft joined the Journal Comparison Service (JCS) initiative by cOAlition S, an alliance of national funders and charitable bodies working to increase the volume of free-to-read research. 

As a result, all journals published by Pensoft – each using the publisher’s self-developed ARPHA Platform – provide extensive and transparent information about their costs and services in line with the Plan S principles.

The JCS was launched to aid libraries and library consortia – the ones negotiating and participating in Open Access agreements with publishers – by providing them with everything they need to know in order to determine whether the prices charged by a certain journal are fair and corresponding to the quality of the service. 

According to cOAlition S, an increasing number of libraries and library consortia from Europe, Africa, North America, and Australia have registered with the JCS over the past year since the launch of the portal in September 2021.

While access to the JCS is only open to librarians, individual researchers may also make use of the data provided by the participating publishers and their journals. 

This is possible through an integration with the Journal Checker Tool, where researchers can simply enter the name of the journal of interest, their funder and affiliation (if applicable) to check whether the scholarly outlet complies with the Open Access policy of the author’s funder. A full list of all academic titles that provide data to the JCS is also publicly available. By being on the list means a journal and its publisher do not only support cOAlition S, but they also demonstrate that they stand for openness and transparency in scholarly publishing.

“We are delighted that Pensoft, along with a number of other publishers, have shared their price and service data through the Journal Comparison Service. Not only are such publishers demonstrating their commitment to open business models and cultures but are also helping to build understanding and trust within the research community.”

said Robert Kiley, Head of Strategy at cOAlition S. 

***

About cOAlition S:

On 4 September 2018, a group of national research funding organisations, with the support of the European Commission and the European Research Council (ERC), announced the launch of cOAlition S, an initiative to make full and immediate Open Access to research publications a reality. It is built around Plan S, which consists of one target and 10 principles. Read more on the cOAlition S website.

About Plan S:

Plan S is an initiative for Open Access publishing that was launched in September 2018. The plan is supported by cOAlition S, an international consortium of research funding and performing organisations. Plan S requires that, from 2021, scientific publications that result from research funded by public grants must be published in compliant Open Access journals or platforms. Read more on the cOAlition S website.

Pensoft’s ARPHA Publishing Platform integrates with OA Switchboard to streamline reporting to funders of open research

By the time authors open their inboxes to the message their work is online, a similar notification will have also reached their research funder.

Image credit: OA Switchboard.

By the time authors – who have acknowledged third-party financial support in their research papers submitted to a journal using the Pensoft-developed publishing platform: ARPHA – open their inboxes to the congratulatory message that their work has just been published and made available to the wide world, a similar notification will have also reached their research funder.

This automated workflow is already in effect at all journals (co-)published by Pensoft and those published under their own imprint on the ARPHA Platform, as a result of the new partnership with the OA Switchboard: a community-driven initiative with the mission to serve as a central information exchange hub between stakeholders about open access publications, while making things simpler for everyone involved.

All the submitting author needs to do to ensure that their research funder receives a notification about the publication is to select the supporting agency or the scientific project (e.g. a project supported by Horizon Europe) in the manuscript submission form, using a handy drop-down menu. In either case, the message will be sent to the funding body as soon as the paper is published in the respective journal.

“At Pensoft, we are delighted to announce our integration with the OA Switchboard, as this workflow is yet another excellent practice in scholarly publishing that supports transparency in research. Needless to say, funding and financing are cornerstones in scientific work and scholarship, so it is equally important to ensure funding bodies are provided with full, prompt and convenient reports about their own input.”

comments Prof Lyubomir Penev, CEO and founder of Pensoft and ARPHA.

 

“Research funders are one of the three key stakeholder groups in OA Switchboard and are represented in our founding partners. They seek support in demonstrating the extent and impact of their research funding and delivering on their commitment to OA. It is great to see Pensoft has started their integration with OA Switchboard with a focus on this specific group, fulfilling an important need,”

adds Yvonne Campfens, Executive Director of the OA Switchboard.

***

About the OA Switchboard:

A global not-for-profit and independent intermediary established in 2020, the OA Switchboard provides a central hub for research funders, institutions and publishers to exchange OA-related publication-level information. Connecting parties and systems, and streamlining communication and the neutral exchange of metadata, the OA Switchboard provides direct, indirect and community benefits: simplicity and transparency, collaboration and interoperability, and efficiency and cost-effectiveness.

About Pensoft:

Pensoft is an independent academic publishing company, well known worldwide for its novel cutting-edge publishing tools, workflows and methods for text and data publishing of journals, books and conference materials.

All journals (co-)published by Pensoft are hosted on Pensoft’s full-featured ARPHA Publishing Platform and published in a way that ensures their content is as FAIR as possible, meaning that it is effortlessly readable, discoverable, harvestable, citable and reusable by both humans and machines.

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Can amateurs combat the threat of alien species? Tracking introduced species in the world of citizen science

How citizen scientists documented the spread of an alien mantis across Australia

Guest blog post by Matthew Connors

From the infamous cane toad to the notorious spotted lanternfly, we all know the drastic effects that introduced species can have on both ecosystems and agriculture.

In today’s interconnected world, these alien species are being moved around the globe more frequently than ever before.  Hitchhikers and stowaways on ships, planes, and other vehicles can cause irreversible and catastrophic damage to fragile native ecosystems and to us humans, and tens of billions of dollars are spent every year trying to control these invaders.

Spotted lanternfly. Photo by peterlcoffey licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0.

But one of the greatest problems for researchers and government bodies trying to combat these threats is that it can be incredibly difficult to monitor the invaders even when we know they’re here.

So how on earth is anyone supposed to detect when a new species has invaded?  Many of these organisms are small, inconspicuous, and difficult to identify, and by the time they’ve been spotted it’s often already too late to act.

What if there was a way to quickly and easily find invasive organisms all over the world?  Enter the world of Citizen Science, where anybody and everybody can produce important scientific data without even leaving their backyard.  Just by taking a photograph of an organism and uploading it to a citizen science platform like iNaturalist or QuestaGame, amateurs and enthusiasts can provide scientists with invaluable records from across the globe.

A screenshot from the iNaturalist homepage, captured on July 7, 2022.

Back in 2015, when amateur naturalist Adam Edmonds spotted an unusual praying mantis in his garden, he took a photo and posted it to the Australian citizen science platform BowerBird.  When even the local experts didn’t recognise it, a specimen was sent off to mantis specialist Graham Milledge.  He confirmed that it was a newly introduced species – the South African Mantis (Miomantis caffra).

Miomantis caffra, an adult female from Victoria, Australia. Photo by Adam Edmonds

Since then, this alien mantis has spread across Australia from Sydney to Perth.  And every step of the way, citizen scientists have been there to document its spread.

Last month, all of these citizen science records were compiled by entomologist Matthew Connors of James Cook University (Queensland, Australia) into the first comprehensive report of the mantis’s presence in Australia.  Understanding where the species has spread and what impacts it has had on native species is crucial to managing and controlling it.

The introduced South African Mantis (Miomantis caffra) preys on a native Harlequin Bug (Dindymus versicolor) in Geelong, Australia.  Photo by Kelly Clitheroe

The research found that the South African Mantis has spread through suburban habitats in three Australian states (Victoria, New South Wales, and Western Australia) and one offshore territory (Norfolk Island).  It probably arrived in these regions as egg cases attached to plants and equipment, and it can now be found in high numbers, especially during late summer and early autumn.  Despite this, it appears to be highly localised and has only been recorded in suburbia, and furthermore there has not been any noticeable impact on native species.

Miomantis caffra, egg case (ootheca) from Victoria, Australia. Photo by Ken Walker

None of this research would have been possible without citizen scientists – the dedicated community of enthusiasts and amateurs who share their finds with researchers online.  Photographs from citizen science platforms and social media sites have been instrumental in showing just how far the South African Mantis has spread.  In fact, more than 90% of the records of the species come from citizen scientists, and without them we would barely know anything.

These days, more and more researchers are realising just how useful citizen science can be.  As well as tracking introduced species, citizen scientists have rediscovered rare creatures, documented never-before-seen behaviours, and even discovered completely new species.

Miomantis caffra, an adult female from Victoria, Australia. Photo by Matthew Connors

This latest research, published in the Journal of Orthoptera Research, is among a handful of recent studies that have gone a step further though – instead of just being a source of data, the citizen scientists were invited to take part in the entire research process, from data collection all the way through to publishing.  After all, they did all of the fieldwork!

Research like this is proof that anyone can be a citizen scientist in today’s day and age – so what are you waiting for?

Research article: Connors MG, Chen H, Li H, Edmonds A, Smith KA, Gell C, Clitheroe K, Miller IM, Walker KL, Nunn JS, Nguyen L, Quinane LN, Andreoli CM, Galea JA, Quan B, Sandiford K, Wallis B, Anderson ML, Canziani EV, Craven J, Hakim RRC, Lowther R, Maneylaws C, Menz BA, Newman J, Perkins HD, Smith AR, Webber VH, Wishart D (2022) Citizen scientists track a charismatic carnivore: Mapping the spread and impact of the South African Mantis (Miomantidae, Miomantis caffra) in Australia. Journal of Orthoptera Research 31(1): 69-82. https://doi.org/10.3897/jor.31.79332

Are people swapping their cats and goldfish for praying mantises?

The first overview of the pet mantis market’s dynamics reports a lack of regulations, but also the potential of a stronger collaboration between hobbyists and scientists for biodiversity conservation.

New research sheds light on the pet insect market and its implications on biodiversity conservation

Rearing insects at home as pets may sound strange, but thousands of people all over the world have already swapped their hamsters for praying mantises or stick insects.

These insects, sold at fairs and pet markets, or collected in the wild and then reared by amateurs or professionals, are gaining increased popularity and fueling a largely unknown market. Not all of them are small, crawling monsters. Some are elegant, with flower-like coloration (the Orchid Mantis, Hymenopus coronatus), and some are funny-looking like Pokémon (e.g. the Jeweled Flower Mantis, Creobroter wahlbergii). Many can be safely manipulated and cuddled as they look at you with big, cute kitty-eyes (the Giant Shield Mantis Rhombodera basalis).

 The beautiful orchid mantis Hymenopus coronatus, one of the most priced and requested mantis species on the market. Photo by William Di Pietro

When choosing a pet insect, “customers” consider things such as shape, size, colors, and behaviors. They might also take into account how rare a certain species is, or how easy it is to look after. Looking at these preferences, Roberto Battiston of Museo di Archeologia e Scienze Naturali G. Zannato (Italy), William di Pietro of the World Biodiversity Association (Italy) and entomologist Kris Anderson (USA) published the first overview of the mantis pet market. Understanding how this market, which still mostly unregulated, is changing, may be crucial to the conservation of rare species and promoting awareness of their habitat and place in the ecosystem.

A survey among almost 200 hobbyists, enthusiasts and professional sellers in the mantis community from 28 different countries showed that the targets of this market are indeed predictable. The typical mantis breeder or enthusiast, the study found, is 19 to 30 years old and buys mantises mostly out of personal curiosity or scientific interest. Willing to spend over $30 for a single individual, most people prefer beautiful looking species over rare ones.

A cute nymph of the Jeweled Flower Mantis Creobroter wahlbergii resting on the tip of a finger. Photo by William Di Pietro

The research, published in the open-access Journal of Orthoptera Research, identified buyers as “mostly curious enthusiasts with poor knowledge of the market dynamics and the laws behind it, even if they seem to generally care about their pet.”

But the data also suggests the trade might not always be on the legal side, as “about one time out of four the lack of permits or transparency from the seller is perceived from the buyer.”

A good collaboration between science and this large community may play a crucial role in the conservation of mantises in nature, the researchers point out.

The Giant Shield Mantis Rhombodera basalis looking for a friend. Photo by William Di Pietro

Mantises and, in general, insects, are poorly known in terms of biology, distribution, and threats, with many species still unknown and waiting to be discovered. This is a major limit to their protection and conservation, since you cannot protect what you don’t know.

“Hobbyists and pet insect enthusiasts are producing and sharing a huge quantity of observations on the biology and ecology of hundreds of species, even rare or still undescribed ones, a priceless heritage for the scientific community,” the researchers conclude. 

“Strengthening the dialogue between them, promoting a white market over a black one, may be a crucial help for the conservation of these insects, fundamental parts of the biodiversity of our planet, that are replacing our traditional pets at home.”

Research article:

Battiston R, Di Pietro W, Anderson K (2022) The pet mantis market: a first overview on the praying mantis international trade (Insecta, Mantodea). Journal of Orthoptera Research 31(1): 63-68. https://doi.org/10.3897/jor.31.71458

Decade-old photographs shared on social media give away a new species of pygmy grasshopper

While scrolling through iNaturalist – a social network where professional and citizen scientists share their photographs, in order to map biodiversity observations from across the globe – a group of students from Croatia discovered a couple of curious pictures, taken in 2008 in the Peruvian rainforest and posted in 2018. What they were looking at was a pygmy grasshopper sporting a unique pattern of lively colors. The motley insect was nothing they have so far encountered in the scientific literature.

While scrolling through iNaturalist – a social network where professional and citizen scientists share their photographs, in order to map biodiversity observations from across the globe – a group of students from Croatia discovered a couple of curious pictures, taken in 2008 in the Peruvian rainforest and posted in 2018. What they were looking at was a pygmy grasshopper sporting a unique pattern of lively colors. The motley insect was nothing they have so far encountered in the scientific literature.

The scientist and photographer Roberto Sindaco, Museo Civico di Storia naturale (Torino, Italy) graciously shared his camera roll with Niko Kasalo, Maks Deranja, and Karmela Adžić, graduate students under the mentorship of Josip Skejo, all currently affiliated with University of Zagreb, Faculty of Science, Croatia. Together, they published a paper describing the yet to be named insect in the open-access scientific journal Journal of Orthoptera Research.

Typically, new species are described from specimens collected from their natural habitats and then deposited in a museum to be preserved for future reference. The authors, possessing several high-quality photographs, decided to challenge the norm and name the new species based on photographs only. The paper was initially rejected, but a compromise was reached—it could be published with the species name removed.

The International Code of Zoological nomenclature is a document that contains regulations for proper scientific naming of animal species. It allows naming species from photographs, but the practice is generally looked down upon. Thus, the authors decided to use the nameless species to draw attention to this problem and bring more clarity. Names in zoology consist of two words: the genus name and the species name. As the species name was denied, the grasshopper is now mysteriously referred to as „the nameless Scaria“.

Another important message of this paper is how citizen science portals, such as iNaturalist, allow everybody interested in nature to contribute to ‘real’ scientific work by posting their findings online.

The authors believe that including laypeople in the scientific process can help bridge the communication gap between scientists and the general population, dissipating the growing suspicion towards science. The researchers urge everybody to engage with nature around them and capture its beauty with their camera lens. 

“Only by interacting with nature can we truly feel how much we might lose if we do not take care of it, and care is urgently needed,”

said the authors of the study.
Male of the nameless Scaria species
Photo by Roberto Sindaco

Original source:

Kasalo N, Deranja M, Adžić K, Sindaco R, Skejo J (2021) Discovering insect species based on photographs only: The case of a nameless species of the genus Scaria (Orthoptera: Tetrigidae). Journal of Orthoptera Research 30(2): 173-184. https://doi.org/10.3897/jor.30.65885

Desert locusts remain a serious threat to Pakistan

The recent Desert Locust upsurge had a major impact on Pakistan’s agriculture, with swarms causing immense damage to all types of crops. A joint French-Pakistani team provides an overview of the dynamics of this upsurge, assesses its impact and control measures, and clarifies the role of different stakeholders in the management of this pest, suggesting various improvements for the future. The study was published in the open access Journal of Orthoptera Research.

In 2019 and 2020, desert locusts once again plagued parts of East Africa and huge areas as far as India and Pakistan through the Arabian Peninsula, in an infestation that was described as the worst in decades. A serious agricultural pest, the desert locust Schistocerca gregaria can feed on most types of crops, including grains, vegetables and fruit, causing significant damage to agricultural production and threatening food security in many countries.

Since the 1960s, a preventive control strategy against this pest has been implemented, based on monitoring of outbreak areas and ecological conditions, followed, if necessary, by early intervention and limited use of pesticides, so that any outbreak can be stopped as soon as possible. With 60 years of hindsight, desert locust invasions are now less frequent, smaller in scale and, if they cannot be stopped early, they are adequately managed.

Desert Locust: mature adult. Photo by A. Monard, CIRAD

However, financial and political uncertainties in many parts of the desert locust’s range continue to sustain the threat, and not all invasions can be stopped early. This was the case in 2018, when such an upsurge was largely aided by rains in the southern Arabian Peninsula. Locusts could not be detected for several months and therefore went unchecked, mainly due to the insecure conditions, especially in Yemen. The swarms then progressively contaminated a large part of East Africa and spread to Iran, Pakistan and India. Pakistan, in particular, subject to periodic swarm invasions in the past, faced a particularly severe situation in 2019-2020, where the swarms could only be contained after several months of intensive control.

Scientists Riffat Sultana, Ahmed Ali Samejo and Samiallah Soomro (University of Sindh, Pakistan), Santosh Kumar (University of Cholistan, Pakistan) and Michel Lecoq (former director of a locust research unit at CIRAD, France) synthesised these two years of upsurge in a new research article published in the open-access Journal of Orthoptera Research. They focused on Pakistan, the damage caused in this country, and the surveillance and control operations undertaken, clarifying, at the same time, at both national and international level, the role of the different actors in the management of this pest, and suggesting some improvements for the future.

Desert Locust: hopper. Photo by A. Foucart, CIRAD

During this upsurge, a great deal of damage was caused to all types of crops. The Government of Pakistan’s preliminary estimate of monetary losses due to desert locusts for the agricultural seasons 2020 and 2021 ranges from $3.4 billion to $10.21 billion. More than 3 million people were facing severe acute food insecurity.

The authors also note that Pakistan needs to continue to be prepared and improve the prevention system already in place. They suggest developing compensatory measures for local populations in the event of an uncontrolled invasion at an early stage, increasing the use of alternatives to chemical pesticides such as mycopesticides, and maintaining funding mechanisms that provide sustainable support even in times of recession. Perhaps the most important challenge is certainly to maintain long-term efforts to build resilience, despite the apparent absence of imminent threats.

Research article:

Sultana R, Kumar S, Samejo AA, Soomro S, Lecoq M (2021) The 2019–2020 upsurge of the desert locust and its impact in Pakistan. Journal of Orthoptera Research 30(2): 145-154. https://doi.org/10.3897/jor.30.65971

The first Red List of Taxonomists in Europe is calling for the support of insect specialists

The Red List of Taxonomists portal, where taxonomy experts in the field of entomology can register to help map and assess expertise across Europe, in order to provide action points necessary to overcome the risks, preserve and support this important scientific community, will remain open until 31st October 2021.

About 1,000 insect taxonomists – both professional and citizen scientists – from across the European region have already signed up on the Red List of Taxonomists, a recently launched European Commission-funded initiative by the Consortium of European Taxonomic Facilities (CETAF), the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) and the scholarly publisher best-known for its biodiversity-themed journals and high-tech innovations in biodiversity data publishing Pensoft.

Insect taxonomists, both professional and citizen scientists, are welcome to register on the Red List of Taxonomists portal at: red-list-taxonomists.eu and further disseminate the registration portal to fellow taxonomists until 31st October 2021.

Within the one-year project, the partners are to build a database of European taxonomy experts in the field of entomology and analyse the collected data to shed light on the trends in available expertise, including best or least studied insect taxa and geographic distribution of the scientists who are working on those groups. Then, they will present them to policy makers at the European Commission.

By recruiting as many as possible insect taxonomists from across Europe, the Red List of Taxonomists initiative will not only be able to identify taxa and countries, where the “extinction” of insect taxonomists has reached a critical point, but also create a robust knowledge base on taxonomic expertise across the European region to prompt further support and funding for taxonomy in the Old Continent.

On behalf of the project partners, we would like to express our immense gratitude to everyone who has self-declared as an insect taxonomist on the Red List of Taxonomists registration portal. Please feel welcome to share our call for participation with colleagues and social networks to achieve maximum engagement from everyone concerned about the future of taxonomy!

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Read more about the rationale of the Red List of Taxonomists project.

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Dating in a jungle: Female praying mantises jut out weird pheromone gland to attract mates

Scientists from the Ruhr-University and the Bavarian State Collection of Zoology discovered that females of a South American species protrude a Y-shaped organ on their backs to release pheromones and attract males. Found in none of the over 2,500 species of praying mantises worldwide, the behaviour is reported for the first time in the peer-reviewed scientific Journal of Orthoptera Research.

Female of Stenophylla lobivertex with protruded pheromone gland
(Photo by Christian J. Schwarz)

It isn’t only myriads of currently unknown species that await discovery in the Amazon rainforests. As a new study by German scientists at the Ruhr-University (Bochum) and the Bavarian State Collection of Zoology (Munich)published in the open-access peer-reviewed scientific Journal of Orthoptera Research, concludes, it seems that so do plenty of unusual behaviours.

“When I saw the maggot-like structures peeking out from the back of the praying mantis and then withdrew, I immediately thought of parasites that eat the animal from the inside, because that is not really uncommon in insects,”

says Frank Glaw, a reptile and amphibian expert from the Bavarian State Collection of Zoology, who discovered the unusual phenomenon.
How does the Alien Mantis (Stenophylla lobivertex) attract partners?

However, it took specialists in this particular animal group to solve the riddle. Although the experts had seen nothing like this in praying mantises before either, they pointed out that there are other species of mantises, in which mostly unfertilised females release pheromones from a gland in the same part of the body (between the 6th and 7th tergite), in order to attract mates. The Y-shaped organ, which can stretch up to 6 mm in length, is in fact an advanced pheromone gland, which the insect controls with the help of hemolymph.

“We suspect that Stenophylla lobivertex can release the pheromones with the protrusible organ more efficiently and in a more targeted manner than other praying mantises,”

says Christian J. Schwarz, entomologist at the Ruhr-University.

“This can be very important, especially for rare species with a low population density, so that males can reliably find their females.”

Stenophylla lobivertex is a very rare species and lives hidden in the Amazon rainforests. Discovered only 20 years ago, the bizarre-looking and well-camouflaged animal has only been spotted a few times, and apparently only mates at night in the darkness.

Stenophylla lobivertex is a rare praying mantis from the Amazon rainforest. Its ‘true’ face becomes apparent only at second glance
(Photo by Christian J. Schwarz)

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Publication:

Schwarz CJ, Glaw F (2021) The luring mantid: Protrusible pheromone glands in Stenophylla lobivertex (Mantodea: Acanthopidae). Journal of Orthoptera Research 30(1): 39-41. https://doi.org/10.3897/jor.30.55274