[Taxacom] New Scratchpads site about world species of Microgastrinae wasps (Hymenoptera: Braconidae)

Jose Fernandez Triana jftriana at uoguelph.ca
Mon Dec 1 13:55:53 CST 2014


The following message deals with a newly available Scratchpads site (http://microgastrinae.myspecies.info/). The comments below may be of interest to researchers working on biological control of Lepidoptera pests, Braconidae parasitoid wasps systematists, bioinformatics interested in mining information from other websites, anyone rearing caterpillars, and anyone interested in biodiversity of Microgastrinae (worldwide, regional, or locally).
After some work on this site, I wanted to bring your attention to some information there that should be of interest:

- There is a 'Live counter' of species, where we keep track, on real time, of the number of species of worldwide Microgastrinae (Hymenoptera, Braconidae) as they are being described. This is complemented by a full list of genera and species, which is arguably the most complete and updated list of its kind available. For example: we have listed there 2561 species in 62 genera of Microgastrinae, more than 300 additional species than any other site/resource where information on this group can be found.

- Over one thousand images of species of Microgastrinae have been so far uploaded, and an additional 2,000+ are on its way. Again, this is the most comprehensive collection of images for this group, including many species that had never been illustrated before. We are also uploading descriptions and notes about species -some of those notes never published or available before. The descriptions and notes are still a work in progress, with additional species/genera being added on a weekly or even daily basis.

- Another important, and hopefully very useful thing, is that we are following the taxonomic arrangement of genera proposed by Mason (1981), which has been adopted by most of the world community working on Microgastrinae. However, the main resource about Braconidae and Ichneumonidae: Taxapad (both its online and CD/flash drive versions) follows a different system (based on van Achterberg 2003, also adopted by Fauna Europaea). [For example: Taxapad lumps Dolichogenidea under Apanteles, and Glyptapanteles under Protapanteles]. As a result, biocontrol and biodiversity researchers (and sometimes even Braconidae taxonomists) get confused on which names are used. Our new website allows those interested in continuing with the Mason's system to use the corresponding names, functioning as a de facto alternative to the Microgastrinae classification used in Taxapad. Taxapad is still a GREAT resource to anyone studying Ichneumonoidea, and we strongly recommend using it! But now there is a possibility to see clearly the two classifications -and then the reader can choose whichever she/he prefers. 

- There are also several lists of species compiled for several regions/areas of the planet, with new information being added constantly. Those lists refer to work that is currently being done, and as research progresses the species numbers and other information are updated. Some of those lists (e.g., that for Sweden) are the most comprehensive currently available.

- We have started (but not much yet to show on this topic) a list of Lepidoptera families parasitized by microgastrine wasps. One main idea is to discuss those dubious records in the historical literature that unfortunately get repeated often.

- We have a section devoted to promote the rearing of parasitoids from caterpillars, especially written for the interested public. We are convinced (and will push in future updates) of the value of Citizen Science, and thus will be asking for collaborations on this topic down the road.

- There are some other things available, but the main emphasis is to make this site a one-shopping destination for anyone interested in Microgastrinae and the caterpillars they parasitize. Through photos, descriptions, checklist of species, etc., we hope to provide a number of resources that right now are either too scattered or just unavailable.

Now, this email is not only to 'promote' the site but, most importantly, to ask for and encourage further collaboration. The Scratchpads platform allows for extensive involvement of people sharing interest in a taxon (or taxa from a region, etc.), and collaboration and curation of the sites is always a must. This new site on Microgastrinae can only succeed if other researchers or people interested in the group get involved and contribute. Without further help the amount of information that can be uploaded and shared is much slower and incomplete. We DO look forward to see anyone interested submitting and sharing data as they feel is useful, and any criticism is also welcome!

We would also welcome any help from someone that is more knowledgeable about Scratchpads -right now the site could use some embellishment, and we would love to be able to upload data faster and easier... We would be very grateful if anyone wants to get involved and improve the design of the site. But if not, we will continue nevertheless.

Some of the data already posted will be formally published in upcoming papers in the Biodiversity Data Journal, especially a world checklist of Microgastrinae.

All of this site has been done as volunteer work in our free time, without any support or funding. As such, the degree of completion for particular areas of the site varies, and is a function of the time we have been able to spend on those areas. But, as incomplete as it may be at the moment, there are still many features and data that would be of interest for some of the readers of this list.

Thanks for your time and any suggestion you may have to help us improve this effort.

All the best,

José L. Fernández-Triana, PhD.
Research Associate, Canadian National Collection of Insects,
and Biodiversity Institute of Ontario
960 Carling Ave, Ottawa, ON, K1A 0C6, Canada
Phone: 613-759-1034. Email: jftriana at uoguelph.ca, Jose.Fernandez at agr.gc.ca

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