Terrestrial Polyneoptera Digitization Project

Unidentified Genus arphia specimen is positioned for a lateral view on the left, with a ruler above of it, and a label and color chart to the right.
Unidentified species in the grasshopper genus Arphia with left-wings expanded.
Eva Larsen

The Division of Invertebrate Zoology received a grant from the National Science Foundation to database and image its terrestrial cricket, grasshopper (Orthoptera), roach ('Blattaria') and earwig (Dermaptera) collections. Parts of these collections date back to the mid-1800s, when some species such as the now-extinct Melanoplus spretus grasshopper decimated crops, ate the wool from live sheep and blackened the sky.

The project is a Partner to an Existing the Thematic Collections Network Grant, Symbiota Collection of Arthropods Network (SCAN) and we will contribute digital data from ~54,000 specimens to fill important species, locality and historical gaps in the SCAN dataset. An often slow and tedious process with sometimes old, handwritten labels no larger than a centimeter, tools such as automated image cropping and optical character recognition with the help of volunteer citizen scientists are integral to this effort.  

The result will be a more complete and robust understanding of species diversity and representation of current and past ecosystems and the impact of natural and anthropogenic activities. Localities will be georeferenced so specimens can be mapped in space and time, species distributions can be refined and models of distributional, ecological and diversity changes can be improved.

High resolution images of exemplar males, females, alternative morphs, and AMNH holotypes for target species will aid in species identification and comparison. Additional images of earwig cerci (hind pincers) and expanded grasshopper hindwings will be available for data visualization projects, such as looking at inter- and intra-species and sex variation. Data and images will be shared with the greater scientific community and public through AMNH’s portal, as well as with GIBF, iDigBio and SCAN aggregators.

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