Saturday, May 18, 2002

The Pelecinus Project

Pelecinus is the Latin name for a genus of distinctive New World parastic wasps. Individuals of this genus are relatively large and the females are characterized by their extremely elongated abdomens, an adaptation for parasitizing the larvae of scarab beetles buried in the soil. Although 15 distinct group-names have been assigned to the Pelecinus at one time or another, entomologists currently recognize a single variable species, Pelecinus polyturator, which is distributed throughout North and South America.

The Pelecinus Project represents a quite successful effort to merge traditional museum collections of biological specimens with Web-based technology and geo-referenced mapping (i.e., GIS) . The resulting Web site integrates data on 7,859 individual specimens from 100 museum collections, representing 2,310 distinct localities in 18 countries. The Pelecinus Project was conceived and executed by Norman F. Johnson and Luciana Musetti of the Ohio State University’s Department of Entomology. This site literally makes those 7,859 pinned specimens come alive. Here’s hoping that other taxonomists follow Johnson and Musetti’s lead and create similar sites for other organisms.


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