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AntWeb: digitizing Recent and fossil insects for an online database of the ants of the world

Abstract : Ants (Hymenoptera: Formicidae) are one of the great success stories in the history of life on Earth. From their first appearance in the Early Cretaceous, ants have come to occupy keystone positions in virtually all major terrestrial habitats, and they are absent only from Antarctica and a few inhospitable or remote islands. Despite the interest ants have long generated, our understanding of their taxonomy, diversity, evolution and ecology is far from complete. It is estimated that only half of the world's ant species - currently numbering about 12,200 - have been described. AntWeb's [www.antweb.org] mission is to develop tools to accelerate the discovery and documentation of ant diversity, and ensure ant information is widely accessible across a broad community. As such, AntWeb is the world's largest online database of images, specimen records, and natural history information on ants. A standardized digitizing protocol has been set up for extant species, which optimizes the image acquisition of each specimen in dorsal, profile, and head views, as well as the wings and male genitalia when applicable. As of July 2012, AntWeb has approximately 84000 high quality images of 20000 specimens representing over 9010 extant species. But the picture would be incomplete without the fossils. Recently the world catalogue of the fossil ants was added, which comprises 661 valid extinct species each represented by a single or few specimens disseminated in various fossil collections throughout the world. Besides the difficulty to access some of them, the main limitation to digitizing fossil ants is their mode of preservation. From spectacularly preserved specimens entombed within amber and showing the finest details of cuticular sculpturing, to the often shadowy outlines hinting at a structure that seems just out of view provided by an imprint, fossil ants often cannot be imaged following all the standards of extant specimens, and instead require specific methods for high quality image acquisition.
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Submitted on : Wednesday, March 27, 2013 - 2:21:08 PM
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Vincent Perrichot, Brian Fisher. AntWeb: digitizing Recent and fossil insects for an online database of the ants of the world. Digital Fossil International Conference, Sep 2012, Berlin, Germany. ⟨insu-00805243⟩

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