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Systematic Collections of the Agricultural Research Service.

One-Stop Web "Shop" to Find Collections of Biological Specimens

By Hank Becker
January 22, 1999

Users of the World Wide Web can now visit a one-stop "shopping center" for information about the U.S. Department of Agriculture's collections of biological specimens, from Anastrepha fruit flies to Zoopthora fungi.

The Agricultural Research Service, USDA's chief research agency, designed the site for scientists. But it will be useful to teachers, students and administrators--just about anyone who studies or cares for plants and animals and the range of organisms that affect them.

Systematic Collections of the Agricultural Research Service describes in detail 12 collections under the care of ARS laboratories. The collections are of animal parasites, fungi, bacteria, insects, nematodes, plants and seeds.

ARS curators and other experts discover, name, describe and classify the organisms. Specimens in the collections form a foundation for studies in botany, entomology, acarology, nematology, parasitology and mycology, as well as molecular sciences that draw on these fields. Many of the organisms play roles as biological controls for agriculture pests.

Most ARS systematic collections are the primary U.S. repositories for these organisms. Several are recognized as part of the U.S. National Museums’ series and are maintained by the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C. The collections include mostly preserved museum reference specimens.

The link to the web version of the systematics publication--as well as ordering information for the 77-page, full-color book--can be found at:


Not your typical technical publication, the web version has links to ARS databases associated with the collections, to curators of the collections and to affiliated organizations such as the Smithsonian Institution. Other links take browsers to scientific literature references.

The web site provides information on the collections’ purpose, history, location and size. Also included are major research programs and achievements of the labs curating the collections.

Anastrepha ludens, the Mexican fruit fly, is a quarantine pest of U.S. citrus. Zoopthora radicans is a fungus that attacks leafhopper pests.

Scientific contact: J. Ralph Lichtenfels, ARS Biosystematics and National Parasite Collection Unit, Beltsville, Md., phone (301) 504-8444, fax (504) 8979,

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