Today, 16 September 2023, we are celebrating our tenth anniversary: an important milestone that has prompted us to reflect on the incredible journey thatBiodiversity Data Journal (BDJ) has been through.
From the very beginning, our mission was clear: to revolutionise the way biodiversity data is shared, accessed, and harnessed. This journey has been one of innovation, collaboration, and a relentless commitment to making biodiversity data FAIR – Findable, Accessible, Interoperable, and Reusable.
Over the past 10 years, BDJ, under the auspices of our esteemed publisher Pensoft, has emerged as a trailblazing force in biodiversity science. Our open-access platform has empowered researchers from around the world to publish comprehensive papers that seamlessly blend text with morphological descriptions, occurrences, data tables, and more. This holistic approach has enriched the depth of research articles and contributed to the creation of an interconnected web of biodiversity information.
In addition, by utilising ARPHA Writing Tool and ARPHA Platform as our entirely online manuscript authoring and submission interface, we have simplified the integration of structured data and narrative, reinforcing our commitment to simplifying the research process.
One of our most significant achievements is democratising access to biodiversity data. By dismantling access barriers, we have catalysed the emergence of novel research directions, equipping scientists with the tools to combat critical global challenges such as biodiversity loss, habitat degradation, and climate fluctuations.
We firmly believe that data should be openly accessible to all, fostering collaboration and accelerating scientific discovery. By upholding the FAIR principles, we ensure that the datasets accompanying our articles are not only discoverable and accessible, but also easy to integrate and reusable across diverse fields.
As we reflect on the past decade, we are invigorated by the boundless prospects on the horizon. We will continue working on to steer the global research community towards a future where biodiversity data is open, accessible, and harnessed to tackle global challenges.
Ten years of biodiversity research
To celebrate our anniversary, we have curated some of our most interesting and memorable BDJ studies from the past decade.
Recently, news outlets were quick to cover a new species of ‘snug’ published in our journal.
This Golden Retriever trained to monitor hermit beetle larvae proved once again the incredible capabilities of our canine friends.
Who could forget this tiny fly named after the former Governor of California?
Or this snail named after climate activist Greta Thunberg?
New discoveries are always exciting, but some of our favourite research focuses on formerly lost species, back where they belong.
Like the griffon vulture, successfully reintroduced to Bulgaria after fifty years.
Citizen science has shown time and time again that it holds an important position in biodiversity research.
This group, for example, who found a beetle the size of a pinhead in Borneo.
We extend our heartfelt gratitude to our authors, reviewers, readers, and the entire biodiversity science community for being integral parts of this transformative journey. Together, we have redefined scientific communication, and we will continue to push the boundaries of knowledge.
Guest blog post by Cássio Cardoso Pereira, Daniel Negreiros, and Geraldo Wilson Fernandes
A recently published study by Pereira et al. in the prestigious journal Nature Conservation says that the solution for climate warming and environmental crises is not solely about curbing temperature by planting trees or even by changing our energy matrix. It is about changing our perspective on ourselves and the way we do things. There is a long list of things we have to do if we want to be successful. One important thing is changing policy actions.
This is a reflection of increased public attention to climate change at the expense of other biodiversity issues and may have contributed to a much higher number of UNFCCC Conferences of the Parties (COPs) linked to climate change (27 COPs) compared to those about biodiversity (15 COPs) to this date. Governments should not solely focus on curbing greenhouse gas emissions into the atmosphere. This asymmetry between environmental agendas can harm not only biodiversity, but also climate change, as environmental issues are inexorably interconnected.
In a society with broad and deep environmental problems, government, private sector and non-governmental efforts should include other dimensions of nature in their agenda. Biodiversity, the unique variety of life on our planet, underpins our cultural, economic, and social well-being. The destruction of ecosystems undermines nature’s ability to regulate greenhouse gas emissions and protect us against extreme weather, thus accelerating climate change and increasing our vulnerability to it. Therefore, it is puzzling that policy-makers are still over-focused on the climate component.
We argue here that the climate change issue is important and urgent. However, this problem cannot be solved without considering the picture as a whole. In this way, changes in land use must be integrated into climate models so that we can achieve a more detailed representation that increases our ability to predict how local impacts of change in land use will affect the future of biodiversity at a global level.
We emphasise that this path is necessary, but it is still winding. There is much to pass on to society in terms of ecological awareness. The spotlight is on climate change, at least in part, because everyone already knows how to get involved in climate action in an accessible way. However, the degradation of biodiversity can be difficult to notice, especially for someone who does not get out and experience nature regularly. Therefore, a big question is how much we still have to learn about the various ecosystems across the planet, their delicate balance and interaction with their wider environment, and indeed the climate.
Pereira CC, Negreiros D, Barbosa M, Goulart FF, Dias RL, Melillo MC, Camarota F, Pimenta MA, Cruz M, Fernandes GW (2023) Has climate change hijacked the environmental agenda? Nature Conservation 53: 157-164. https://doi.org/10.3897/natureconservation.53.110961
A new species of spiny mouse has been discovered in Ecuador, making it the 14th of its genus to be identified in the past five years. Neacomys marci, which was previously confused with another species, is around the length of a tennis ball, with a long tail, pale suede belly fur and a white throat.
Discovered in the Chocó biogeographic region in northwestern Ecuador, it is the 24th formally recognised species in its genus, which has seen significant upheaval in recent years.
Neacomys is a widely distributed genus of small spiny or bristly rodents that occupy habitats in eastern Panama and the northern half of South America. Since 2017, studies of the genus have been remarkably dynamic, resulting in the description of several new species.
However, as there are still many unexplored areas in South America and adjacent Central America (Panama), some of the currently recognised species have not been studied thoroughly, and the true diversity of the genus may be underestimated.
The Chocó biogeographic region is considered one of the most diverse biodiversity hotspots in South America, but one of the least studied despite its great size (along the Pacific coasts of Panama, Colombia and Ecuador). The rainforests of northwestern Ecuador have high biodiversity and endemism due to the influence of the Chocó and the Andes Mountains.
Major reviews of museum collections and increased field collection efforts have helped scientists understand Neacomys marci and other species. Molecular analysis is also being used to assist with more accurate animal group identification.
The new species was named after Marc Hoogeslag of Amsterdam, the Netherlands, who was co-founder and leader of the International Union for Conservation of Nature – Netherlands Land Acquisition Fund, which helps local groups around the world establish new ecological reserves and conserve endangered species. The EcoMinga Foundation‘s Manduriacu Reserve, home to this new species, is one of many reserves that have benefited from Hoogeslag’s program.
Tinoco N, Koch C, Colmenares-Pinzón JE, Castellanos FX, Brito J (2023) New species of the Spiny Mouse genus Neacomys (Cricetidae, Sigmodontinae) from northwestern Ecuador. ZooKeys 1175: 187-221. https://doi.org/10.3897/zookeys.1175.106113
Nanopublications complement human-created narratives of scientific knowledge with elementary, machine-actionable, simple and straightforward scientific statements that prompt sharing, finding, accessibility, citability and interoperability.
By making it easier to trace individual findings back to their origin and/or follow-up updates, nanopublications also help to better understand the provenance of scientific data.
With the nanopublication format and workflow, authors make sure that key scientific statements – the ones underpinning their research work – are efficiently communicated in both human-readable and machine-actionable mannerin line with FAIR principles. Thus, their contributions to science are better prepared for a reality driven by AI technology.
The machine-actionability of nanopublications is a standard due to each assertion comprising a subject, an object and a predicate (type of relation between the subject and the object), complemented by provenance, authorship and publication information. A unique feature here is that each of the elements is linked to an online resource, such as a controlled vocabulary, ontology or standards.
Nanopublications associated with a manuscript submitted to BDJ. This workflow lets authors add a Nanopublications section within their manuscript while preparing their submission in the ARPHA Writing Tool (AWT). Basically, authors ‘highlight’ and ‘export’ key points from their papers as nanopublications to further ensure the FAIRness of the most important findings from their publications.
Standalone nanopublication related to any scientific publication, regardless of its author or source. This can be done via the Nanopublications page accessible from the BDJ website. The main advantage of standalone nanopublication is that straightforward scientific statements become available and FAIR early on, and remain ready to be added to a future scholarly paper.
Nanopublications as annotations to existing scientific publications. This feature is available from several journals published on the ARPHA Platform, including BDJ. By attaching an annotation to the entire paper (via the Nanopublication tab) or a text selection (by first adding an inline comment, then exporting it as a nanopublication), a reader can evaluate and record an opinion about any article using a simple template based on the Citation Typing Ontology (CiTO).
Nanopublications for biodiversity data?
At Biodiversity Data Journal (BDJ), authors can now incorporate nanopublications within their manuscripts to future-proofthe most important assertions on biological taxa and organisms or statements about associations of taxa or organisms and their environments.
On top of being shared and archived by means of a traditional research publication in an open-access peer-reviewed journal, scientific statements using the nanopublication format will also remain ‘at the fingertips’ of automated tools that may be the next to come looking for this information, while mining the Web.
Using the nanopublication workflows and templates available at BDJ, biodiversity researchers can share assertions, such as:
So far, the available biodiversity nanopublication templates cover a range of associations, including those between taxa and individual organisms, as well as between those and their environments and nucleotide sequences.
As a result, those easy-to-digest ‘pixels of knowledge’ can capture and disseminate information about single observations, as well as higher taxonomic ranks.
The novel domain-specific publication format was launched as part of thecollaboration betweenKnowledge Pixels – an innovative startup tech company aiming to revolutionise scientific publishing and knowledge sharing and the open-access scholarly publisherPensoft.
Basically, a nanopublication – unlike a research article – is a tiny snippet of a precise and structured scientific finding (e.g. medication X treats disease Y), which exists as a reusable and cite-able pieces of a growing knowledge graph stored on a decentralised server network in a format that it is readable for humans, but also “understandable” and actionable for computers and their algorithms.
These semantic statements expressed in community-agreed terms, openly available through links to controlled vocabularies, ontologies and standards, are not only freely accessible to everyone in both human-readable and machine-actionable formats, but also easy-to-digest for computer algorithms and AI-powered assistants.
In short, nanopublications allow us to browse and aggregate such findings as part of a complex scientific knowledge graph. Therefore, nanopublications bring us one step closer to the next revolution in scientific publishing, which started with the emergence and increasing adoption of knowledge graphs.
“As pioneers in the semantic open access scientific publishing field for over a decade now, we at Pensoft are deeply engaged with making research work actually available at anyone’s fingertips. What once started as breaking down paywalls to research articles and adding the right hyperlinks in the right places, is time to be built upon,”
By letting computer algorithms access published research findings in a structured format, nanopublications allow for the knowledge snippets that they are intended to communicate to be fully understandable and actionable. With nanopublications, each of those fragmentsof scientific information is interconnected and traceable back to its author(s) and scientific evidence.
By building on shared knowledge representation models, these data become Interoperable (as in the Iin FAIR), so that they can be delivered to the right user, at the right time, in the right place , ready to be reused (as per the R in FAIR) in new contexts.
Another issue nanopublications are designed to address is research scrutiny. Today, scientific publications are produced at an unprecedented rate that is unlikely to cease in the years to come, as scholarship embraces the dissemination of early research outputs, including preprints, accepted manuscripts and non-conventional papers.
A network of interlinked nanopublications could also provide a valuable forum for scientists to test, compare, complement and build on each other’s results and approaches to a common scientific problem, while retaining the record of their cooperation each step along the way.
We encourage you to try the nanopublications workflow yourself when submitting your next biodiversity paper to Biodiversity Data Journal.
Community feedback on this pilot project and suggestions for additional biodiversity-related nanopublication templates are very welcome!
On the journal website: https://bdj.pensoft.net/, you can find more about the unique features and workflows provided by the Biodiversity Data Journal (BDJ), including innovative research paper formats (e.g. Data Paper, OMICS Data Paper, Software Description, R Package, Species Conservation Profiles, Alien Species Profile), expert-provided data audit for each data paper submission, automated data export and more.
Don’t forget to also sign up for the BDJ newsletter via the Email alert form on the journal’s homepage and follow it on Twitter and Facebook.
Earlier this year, Knowledge Pixels and Pensoft presented several routes for readers and researchers to contribute to research outputs – either produced by themselves or by others – through nanopublications generated through and visualised in Pensoft’s cross-disciplinary Research Ideas and Outcomes (RIO) journal, which uses the same nanopublication workflows.
Tom Hardy and his Marvel character Venom have given their names to a newly discovered Australian spider. The genus Venomius and its only current species Venomius tomhardyi were described following an expedition to Tasmania.
Tom Hardy portrays Eddie Brock and his alter-ego Venom, an antihero closely associated with Spider-Man, across two Marvel films and gives his name to the sole species of the new genus. The distinctive black spots on the arachnid’s abdomen reminded the scientists of Venom’s head, inspiring them to select the unusual name.
The genus belongs to the Araneidae family of spiders, or Araneae, that build upright circular webs to capture prey. Despite resembling the related genus Phonognatha as both do not have tubercles on the abdomen, the newly described spiders are distinct in their behaviour of creating silk-lined holes in the branches of trees for shelter, as well as their different genitalia.
The holotype of the new species was discovered and subsequently preserved at the Queen Victoria Museum and Art Gallery following an expedition to Tasmania, Victoria, South Australia and Western Australia.
Researchers also sourced supplementary specimens from scientific arachnology collections, with researchers examining approximately 12,000 records in Australian and overseas institutions.
“It is really important to keep describing new spiders to assess the total biodiversity of these predators in Australia,” added the study’s first author MSc Giullia Rossi.
Rossi GF, Castanheira PS, Baptista RLC, Framenau VW (2023) Venomius, a new monotypic genus of Australian orb-weaving spiders (Araneae, Araneidae). Evolutionary Systematics 7(2): 285-292. https://doi.org/10.3897/evolsyst.7.110022
Further conservation measures are required to protect Vietnamese reptiles, such as the psychedelic rock gecko (Cnemaspis psychedelica), from habitat loss and overharvesting, concludes a new report, published in the open-access scientific journalNature Conservation.
Having identified areas of high reptile diversity and large numbers of endangered species, the study provides a list of the 50 most threatened species as a guide for further research and conservation action in Vietnam.
The study, based on the bachelor thesis of Lilli Stenger (University of Cologne, Germany), recommends IUCN CPSG’s One Plan Approach to Conservation measures, which, next to improved habitat conservation, also involves increasing the number of threatened species in breeding stations and zoos to maintain populations suitable for restocking.
The scientists identified 484 reptile species known to Vietnam, aiming to provide a baseline to authorities, conservationists, rescue centers, and zoos, so they can follow up with appropriate conservation measures for endangered species. They note that the number is likely to go up, as the country is regarded as a top biodiversity hotspot, and the rate of new reptile species discoveries remains high.
According to the IUCN Red List, 74 of the identified species are considered threatened with extinction, including 34 endemic species. For more than half of Vietnam’s endemic reptiles (85 of 159), the IUCN Red List status is either missing or outdated, and further research is imperative for these species, the researchers say.
Vietnam has a high level of reptile diversity and an outstanding number of endemic species. The species richness maps in the study revealed the Central Annamites in central Vietnam to harbor the highest endemic species diversity (32 species), which highlights it as a site of particular importance for reptile conservation. Alarmingly, a protected area analysis showed that 53 of the 159 endemic species (33.2%) including 17 threatened species, have been recorded exclusively from unprotected areas, such as the Psychedelic Rock Gecko.
In General, Vietnam is considered a country with high conservation priority due to habitat loss and overharvesting for trade, traditional medicine and food.
Globally, reptiles are considered a group of special conservation concern, as they play an important role in almost all ecosystems and often have relatively small distribution ranges, making them especially vulnerable to human threats.
Stenger L, Große Hovest A, Nguyen TQ, Pham CT, Rauhaus A, Le MD, Rödder D, Ziegler T (2023) Assessment of the threat status of reptile species from Vietnam – Implementation of the One Plan Approach to Conservation. Nature Conservation 53: 183 221. https://doi.org/10.3897/natureconservation.53.106923
In the latest issue (1174th) of the scientific open-access journal ZooKeys, you can find our paper describing a new species of tarantula (family Theraphosidae) found in northwestern Iran.
This species belongs to Chaetopelma, a relatively small genus, distributed in Crete, Sudan, and the Middle East, and one of the only two tarantula genera inhabiting the Mediterranean region.
Our discovery is significant for several reasons. Firstly, it marks the first record of this genus in Iran and the third known species of tarantulas in this country. Additionally, it extends the known range of Chaetopelma spiders by almost 350 km eastwards.
We named this species Chaetopelma persianum, paying homage to its occurrence in Iran, which has historically been known as Persia. As a potential common name, we suggest “Persian Gold Tarantula”, where we are also making a reference to the “woolly, golden hairs’’ on its carapace.
For the purpose of our study, we only had one specimen: a female with a leg span of almost 9 cm, available. Yet, its distinct characteristics allowed us to confidently differentiate it from other known Chaetopelma species.
This tarantula is an obligate burrower and inhabits high elevations in well-vegetated mountainous regions of the northern Zagros Mountains. The holotype specimen was collected from a self-made ground burrow on sloped rocky ground, amidst sparse low vegetation and grasses.
It all started with local nature enthusiast Mehdi Gavahyan, who photographed a wandering male and sent me the photo. When I figured it was most likely an undescribed species, I asked him to team up with Amir Hossein Aghaei, a nature enthusiast and a friend of mine, and send me specimens of these spiders for further examination. Unfortunately, they only managed to collect that one female. However, it turned out to be enough for us to describe the Persian Gold Tarantula!
Additionally, thanks to local citizen scientists and naturalists, we later also got hold of photos of another two males of the same genus, taken very close to the type locality of the new species: one in Sardasht in West Azerbaijan Province of Iran, and the other in the surroundings of Sulaymaniyah in Iraq. While it is highly probable that both these males belong to Ch. persianum, this cannot be confirmed until further examination of collected material from both sexes is conducted.
Burrow of Persian Gold Tarantulas in West Azerbaijan Province, Iran. The arrow in the photo on the right indicates the location of the burrow. Photos by Amir Hossein Aghaei.
During our research, we also noted that one species of Chaetopelma described from Cameroon is misclassified and should be transferred to another genus. However, this transfer is pending until the type material undergoes examination.
Looking ahead, we believe that more comprehensive investigations employing integrative methods would greatly benefit the taxonomy of Chaetopelma.
For example, Ch. olivaceum, a species with seven junior synonyms and one of the broadest ranges within the entire family, covering an area of approximately 1,493,978 km2, might potentially have cryptic species within its range. Moreover, the disjunct distribution of Ch. olivaceum in Turkey, where it occurs both in the southern regions and as far north as Istanbul, raises the possibility of distinct species status for the latter population, which is geographically isolated from the rest of the recorded occurrences. Integrative studies incorporating molecular data could offer insights into this.
Additionally, further collection efforts in lesser-sampled or completely unexplored regions, such as Saudi Arabia, Syria, Iraq, eastern Turkey and western Iran, could lead to the discovery of additional Chaetopelma species or records. These findings would be instrumental in gaining a more comprehensive understanding of the taxonomy and distribution of this genus.
In busy Los Angeles, few people pay attention to what’s under their feet, but a new underground movement has people looking at the subterranean world just below the surface. A team of scientists discovered a new species of millipede crawling just beneath the soil surface in Los Angeles and Orange counties.
These never-before-seen creatures are pale, blind, thin, inch-long burrowers with the ability to produce a silk-like sticky substance, similar to spider silk. Measuring in at 0.5 millimeters wide and 2 1/2 centimeters long, these creatures are about the width of the a thin graphite lead of a mechanical pencil and about as long as a small paperclip.
Despite being so small, they are described as having a gaping toothy mouth and over 480 legs. The species in question is called the Los Angeles Thread Millipede, formally named Illacme socal.
“We hope that this discovery will encourage conservation efforts to protect these unique creatures and their habitats,” said Marek. “The discovery of Illacme socal highlights the importance of research into subterranean fauna.”
The discovery of Illacme socal was made possible by funding from the National Science Foundation. The research team included scientists from Virginia Tech, West Virginia University, and the University of California, Berkeley. The findings were published in the journal ZooKeys.
The team captured a video of the millipede burrowing and moving through small spaces and crevices underground. This is the first-ever video of this species in action and provides insight into the unique behaviors of these fascinating creatures.
This research discovery highlights the importance of habitat preservation efforts to protect the environment and prevent the loss of biodiversity. The millipede was found in two parks in the Los Angeles and Orange counties but almost certainly lived in other parts of the metropolis in the past.
The fact that populations of this species is living in two small well-known areas that are near constant development emphasizes the need for conservation efforts to protect this and other threatened organisms.
Marek PE, Hall CL, Lee C, Bailey J, Berger MC, Kasson MT, Shear W (2023) A new species of Illacme from southern California (Siphonophorida, Siphonorhinidae). ZooKeys 1167: 265-291. https://doi.org/10.3897/zookeys.1167.102537
Press release originally published by Virginia Tech. Republished with permission.
BKH is a one-stop portal that allows users to access FAIR and interlinked biodiversity data and services in a few clicks. BKH was designed to support a new emerging community of users over time and across the entire biodiversity research cycle providing its services to anybody, anywhere and anytime.
For an eighth year in a row, all conference abstracts will be submitted to TDWG via the Association’s own journal: Biodiversity Information Science and Standards (BISS Journal), published by Pensoft and powered by the end-to-end publishing platform ARPHA. Using the ‘mini-paper’ format, participants are not only openly and efficiently sharing their work with the world, but they also get to enjoy many features typically exclusive to ‘standard’ research papers, including DOI registration on Crossref, semantic enrichment and structural elements (e.g., tables, figures), all of which are stored as easily exported data.
Apart from an abstract submission portal, BISS Journal also serves as a permanent, openly accessible scholarly source for all contributions concerning the creation, maintenance, and promotion of open community-driven data standards to enable sharing and use of biodiversity data for all.
As in previous years, the abstracts will be published ahead of the event itself to provide the community with a sneak preview of the conference. The 2023 collection of abstracts, will allow readers to explore the abstracts by session (e.g., symposia, posters, contributed presentations, keynotes). Sometime after the conference, check out the media tab on most abstracts for slides presented and a link to session video when it is posted on TDWG’s YouTube channel.
Visit the TDWG 2023 conference website for more information about the scientific program, registration, abstract submission and more. Ahead, during and after the conference, join the conversation on Twitter and Mastodon via #tdwg2023.