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Insect Cybertaxonomy

Cybertaxonomy is just traditional taxonomy accelerated and facilitated by informatics technology. In our lab, we participate in and lead in the key aims of (cyber)taxonomy (Wheeler 2007Favret 2014).

  • Search for and describe species across the globe
    • Mostly we have focused on conifer-feeding aphids. Mindarus is a small genus whose species feed on firs and spruces, sometimes causing economic damage in Christmas tree plantations. Interestingly, the fossil species of the genus exhibit a greater morphological diversity than the living species. DNA sequence data, tied to host species affiliations, have shown that the genus is more diverse than previously thought. We’ve published a couple papers but have several more in preparation.
    • In contrast with MindarusCinara is one of the most diverse of aphids genera, a taxonomic revision of which will entails massive cybertaxonomic effort. Stay tuned!
  • Classify species phylogenetically
    • This work fits in with our research on aphid evolution. In the process of building phylogenies to study evolution, we have the opportunity to classify species, genera, and other taxonomic groups. In a recent paper (Chen et al. 2016), we took used our phylogenetic results to classify the genera of Lachninae into five tribes.
  • Connect what is known about each species to its name
    • Aphid Species File is an on-line database of aphid taxonomy, nomenclature, and literature. It is an ever-growing resource, with thousands of literature references tied to taxonomic names by tens of thousands of citations.
    • A key component of species knowledge is species identification. An interactive on-line key to some of the most important aphid species, AphID, is used every day by identifiers needing to screen aphid species.
    • Because there are so many insects to identify them and not enough experts available to make the identifications, we are developing automated insect identification tools using machine vision.
  • Link specimens and experts
    • We are building a virtual aphid collection. It will contain aphid specimen slides scanned at high magnification and high resolution, in three-dimensions. These cyberspecimens will be available soon!
  • Exchange data and literature
  • Mobilize taxonomic knowledge communities
    • SystemAphid is a Google Group of aphid systematists worldwide. We exchange ideas and solicit aphid opinions.