New taxonomy paper combines digital and traditional methods
On June 1 2009, a taxonomic monograph integrating traditional and cutting edge methods was published as a special issue of ZooKeys, a scientific journal with a particular focus integrating systematics and new technologies. This article is the most ambitious yet to combine traditional paper publication with digital enhancements. The enormous scale of the world’s biodiversity means that the science of taxonomy needs data structures to facilitate organization, aggregation, and instant sharing of data. Online databases provide historically unprecedented potential for synergistic outcomes that benefit both science and the public. For this reason, the early 21st century may be taxonomy’s most exciting historical moment.
The publication is a collaborative effort between Naturalis researcher Dr. Jeremy Miller, Dr. Charles Griswold of the California Academy of Sciences, and Professor Chang Min Yin of Hunan Normal University, China. The paper deals with micro-orbweaving spiders, cryptic animals mostly less than 1 mm long that build delicate, geometric webs. The authors describe three dozen species, all new to science. Like most publications in taxonomy, this paper is composed of several components including the primary biodiversity data (a particular species found at a specific place and time), media (like photographs and drawings), and text elements (like species descriptions). The publication itself is freely available to anyone online. The primary biodiversity data is available through the mega-database GBIF (Global Biodiversity Information Facility). In this form, it can be revisited by other scientists or combined with data from many other sources. As contributing to data aggregators like GBIF becomes increasingly standard practice, it will become possible to ask new questions of relevance to science, society, and the environment.
Visual representations (typically illustrations and photographs) are essential to the field of taxonomy. Nearly 450 images from this research have been uploaded to the online database Morphbank. Each image is annotated with detailed information about its source and subject. Demonstrating the interactive potential of the biodiversity and media data elements, the authors have produced a layer that can be explored using Google Earth. Within this interactive environment, each collection locality is marked with an icon. Users can display all species simultaneously or hide some to avoid clutter. A click on any collection locality icon reveals the specific data associated with that event (such as place names, date, and collectors) and a link to Morphbank which reveals all of the images from the publication depicting that particular species. View the KML data file in Google Earth here.
Species descriptions and other text elements are submitted to the Encyclopedia of Life, a data aggregator that serves both science and the public interest. The Encyclopedia of Life has the audacious goal of providing a web page for virtually every species on earth. Pages contain information on multiple levels, basic information suitable for the general public and specialized resources aimed at more ambitious users.
The monograph was published on the occasion of the opening day of the 2009 e-Biosphere Conference in London, which is focused on advances in biodiversity information.
Citation: Miller JA, Griswold CE, Yin CM (2009) Th e symphytognathoid spiders of the Gaoligongshan, Yunnan, China (Araneae: Araneoidea): Systematics and diversity of micro-orbweavers. ZooKeys 11: 1-183. doi: 10.3897/zookeys.11.160 PDF
Mysmena goudou, one of 36 new spider species recently described by Miller and colleagues. The body of this species is just over half a millimeter.
Specimen records data viewed through GBIF (Global Biodiversity Information Facility), a mega-database of primary biodiversity data. This is the first time the body of data from a scientific publication has been made available through GBIF at the time of publication.
Anyone can explore the micro-orbweavers of the Gaoligongshan online through Google Earth and Morphbank. Users can click on placemarks representing any collection locality to reveal the specific data associated with that collection event plus a link to collections of images for each species on Morphbank. A hierarchical menu allows users to display or hide any family, genus, or species.
Monday, June 8, 2009