Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Do you trust GBIF or the revising author?

I was playing around with GBIF the other day (=procrastinating) and found an interesting case. I was looking to see what records exist in GBIF for the taxa I have revised. It turns out that only two institutions reliably put their records on GBIF [at least for the insects that I care]: INBIO and SEMC (the Entomology Division of the Biodiversity Institute). I searched for records of the neotropical genus Ocyolinus, a genus I revised a few years back. It turns out that according to GBIF, there is a specimen in Texas!

Looking at the specific data:

The specimen has a barcode label of 72395 and a quick look at my paper (see below) revealed that the specimen is actually from Costa Rica, which makes sense for a taxon with neotropical distribution:

Of course this is obviously a data entry error and I do not mean to pile dirt on my friends at SEMC. However, the problem is this: If I am writing a paper on the distributions of animals (see previous post), I will probably not check the revision of the genus and I will assume that the record is correct.
GBIF does have a Feedback button (and I used it) but I am wondering if it will be wise to have some sort of control mechanisms in place to prevent such errors: e.g. do not allow data for terrestrial organisms in the middle of the ocean, or in this case a neotropical taxon to have a single nearctic record.

Friday, January 4, 2013

Updated Zoogeographic regions

A cool new paper appeared today in Science by Holt et al (link -  unfortunately behind paywall) where they redefine the zoogeographic areas of the world originally proposed by Wallace in 1876.
Image Credit: Science/AAAS
I particularly like the establishment of the Panamanian area, since many of the taxa I study seem to have a Panamanian distribution. And that brings me to my only problem with this paper: the areas were established using mammals, birds and amphibians. True, they used data from ~21,000 species, which is impressive but arthropods were ignored [the authors claim that data on plants, reptiles and invertebrates are not available, although I am not sure what available means here].

My question is this: are we ever going to see studies of this magnitude using insect data? 

Sometimes Twitter does not cut it.

So, it occurred to me that sometimes I have things to say that are longer than 140 words. Solution: blog! Hopefully I will post here at least once a month.