Monday, April 14, 2008

How to Identify the Argentine Ant, Linepithema humile

Linepithema expert Alex Wild posted a succinct but thorough guide on how to identify the important Argentine ant:

The Argentine Ant (Linepithema humile), a small brown ant about 2-3mm long, is one of the world’s most damaging insects. This pernicious ant is spreading to warmer regions around the world from its natal habitat along South America’s ParanĂ¡ River. Linepithema humile can drive native arthropods to extinction, instigating changes that ripple through ecosystems. In California, horned lizard populations plummet. In South Africa, plant reproduction is disrupted. Worldwide, the Argentine ant is a persistent house and crop pest. This is not a good ant.

More here.

Thursday, April 03, 2008

Access to descriptions on Google

Whilst sitting at a very stimulating meeting at the Academia Sinica's National Digitization Program in Taipei and listening to talks about Web2.0, it occured to me that we are not actively making our valuable data accessible, since we don't make it easy for Google to find it. One trick, we were told, is to build RSS feeds.

And here is the result: The entire list of all the >5,600 descriptions served on plazi are now accessible through this RSS feed. For example, if you want the description of Probolomyrmex tani, you get it, including all the links to the original publications, the citation or even a Google map of its distribution. Try out on Google yourself!

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

44,614 ant names in the Hymenoptera Name Server

The ant community is in a very comfortable situation that there are two, if not three independent efforts to create a catalogue of the worlds ants. This helped us at antbase at least to cross-examine our online global ant name server with the recently published Bolton catalogue. We now have 44,614 names associated with ants, 12,359 are currently considered by the experts covering accepted species (i.e.g published record) . This includes all of them in Bolton's catalogue, and those which were different have been resolved through consulting our digital library. At least all the original descriptions are linked to the original publication.

Since January 2008, all new names are entered through Plazi's GoldenGate mark-up editor, that means that all the new names are linked to at least the original description exposed at plazi's SRS, as well as the original publication, if it is not copyrighted.

An example is the recently synonomized Pyramica aschnae.

What is clear from these exercises is that nobody is able to produce a DB that is complete and without errors, and in fact our different approaches allow each other to profit from each other, and right now update their own databases. Hopefully soon, this could go automatically through Webservices via Zoobank. This way we can continue not to talk to each other.

What is also clear is that the community should be a little bit more proactive and send error, missing or new taxon names and publications to any of the initiatives.

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

What is a bad taxonomic publication?

In a recent publication by Bolton et al., the authors make a bold statement that this is "one of the most inadequate papers that has ever been produced in ant taxonomy". Is it really?

Makhan's descriptions are so clear that they can simply synonymize them even with the bad images in the publication allow nevertheless identifying even misidentified species without having to resort to check the holotype.

I would think, despite the fact that these are probably synonyms, the descriptions are not so bad at all.

I would also argue, that such a paper is preferable to all the papers by the authors refer to, none of which is open access, and thus neither expert or any other person can make their own mind up without a substantial effort to get the publications, but has just believe them blindly.

It would be much better if the authors would have present images of all the types of the species the refer to, plus their descriptions. They could then make a proper argument and not build upon "authority".

Since we are running a project with Zootaxa, you can read the comments and the original descriptions here, and hopefully in the near future all the Pyramica descriptions mentioned will be online as well through