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ARS Home » Pacific West Area » Logan, Utah » Pollinating Insect-Biology, Management, Systematics Research » Research » Publications at this Location » Publication #369223

Research Project: Managing and Conserving Diverse Bee Pollinators for Sustainable Crop Production and Wildland Preservation

Location: Pollinating Insect-Biology, Management, Systematics Research

Title: A subterranean ant (Acanthostichus (Mayr 1887)) revealed in Costa Rica

item SMITH, ALEX - University Of Guelph
item HALLWACHS, W - University Of Pennsylvania
item JANZEN, D.H. - University Of Pennsylvania
item LONGINO, MICHAEL - University Of Utah
item Branstetter, Michael

Submitted to: Insectes Sociaux
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: 1/28/2020
Publication Date: 2/20/2020
Citation: Smith, A.M., Hallwachs, W., Janzen, D., Longino, M., Branstetter, M.G. 2020. A subterranean ant (Acanthostichus (Mayr 1887)) revealed in Costa Rica. Insectes Sociaux. 67:327–330.

Interpretive Summary: Digitally capturing information on species and making those data publicly available on the internet has the potential to allow for “crowd-sourced” analysis of biodiversity information. In this study, an ARS scientist and collaborators used digital images and DNA sequence data available in the publicly accessible Barcode of Life Database to identify a rare ant genus (Acanthostichus) for Costa Rica for the first time. The single male specimen was collected as part of a major biodiversity inventory effort and not correctly identified until the images and sequence data were reviewed remotely by the scientists. The discovery expands the known distribution of the genus and provides new information about its natural history. It also highlights the value of DNA barcoding and the existence of public repositories of biodiversity information.

Technical Abstract: Insects on pins are natural history. Indeed, since many insect species are only known from the type collection, the metadata and provenance associated with these specimens represent the entirety of what we know about their ecology, and according to a recent review, 20% of all species (Deng et al. 2019 ) are known only from the holotype. Thus, much of the value enclosed in natural history collections, museums and herbaria come from the iterative analysis of insects on pins (Meineke et al. 2019). In this study, pinned insect specimens were exposed to multiple sessions of imaging and DNA sequencing and were then shared in a publicly available database. This digitally-driven "crowd-sourcing" approach to biodiversity analysis allowed us to discover the first Costa Rican record of a cryptic subterranean genus of ants and to fill in a previously confusing hole in its geographic range.