Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Recognition through species names

Are you a taxonomist who is about to describe a couple of new species and you still need some ideas for the names? 

Here is an idea for you - why not honoring the people that worked with you in order to obtain the specimens, or worked with you in the collection, or if your work included some DNA Barcoding, the ones that did all the lab work? 

Apanteles albanjimenezi, named after
the parataxonomist Alban Jiménez
A new study just described the astonishing number of 186 new species of a single genus (Apanteles) of parasitoid wasps attacking caterpillars in the Area de Conservación Guanacaste (ACG), Costa Rica. Most of the new species are named after local parataxonomists, who in many cases collected the caterpillars from which the new species of wasps emerged. More than half a million specimens of wild-caught Lepidoptera caterpillars have been identified and reared for their parasitoids over a period of 34 years from this region in northwestern Costa Rica. This provides the world’s best location-based dataset for studying the taxonomy and host relationships of caterpillar parasitoids, and the cherry on the cake is that many of both hosts and parasites have been assigned a DNA Barcode within the last 10 years. In this new publication the authors reassess the limits of the genus Apanteles sensu stricto, describe 186 new species from 3 200+ parasitized caterpillars of hundreds of ACG Lepidoptera species, and provide keys to all 205 described Apanteles from Mesoamerica – including 19 previously described species in addition to the new species. This represents 20% the world's Apanteles fauna, in less than 0.001 % of the terrestrial area of the Planet.

This is not the first study demonstrating by the shier number of new species described how much we have underestimated the actual diversity of parasitoid wasps. No other area is as well collected and studied as the ACG which means that the number of new species of parasitoid wasps awaiting discovery must be gargantuan.

The study also revealed that 90% of the wasps species only parasitized on one or just a few species of moths or butterflies, suggesting that members of this group of parasitoid wasps (Microgastrinae) are more specialized than previously suspected.

All species are described through an approach that integrates morphological, DNA Barcode and other biological data, computer-generated descriptions, and high-quality illustrations and images for every single species. The combination of techniques allowed the researchers to speed up the process of describing new species, without reducing the quality of the paper. Taxonomic keys are presented in two formats: traditional dichotomous print and links to an electronic interactive version using Lucid 3.5.

1 comment:

  1. Hi Dirk,
    Thank you very much for your post about our paper. More importantly, you perfectly expressed in your post the essence of the work done, the integration of techniques and the work yet to be done (yes, we still have many hundreds of new wasp species awaiting! A bit scary and also a humbling experience... we still know so few, and there is so much to be done!).
    Thanks again and all the best to you and your blog.
    Jose Fernandez-Triana, from Ottawa