Taxonomic and Geographic Focus

Taxonomic and Geographic Focus

LepNet will digitize label data from adult and larval specimens collected throughout continental North America (Canada, USA, and Mexico). We will provide comprehensive data for all families and create the organizational foundation to promote the complete digitization of all Lepidoptera holdings broadly in North America. We restricted our efforts to North America but included all lepidopteran groups for several reasons: 1) Lepidoptera is a model group, and excluding any taxa will make it harder to conduct comprehensive studies on this monophyletic group at a continental scale; 2) digitizing all species in North America allows for analytical comparisons between closely related species; and 3) large efforts have been applied across all lepidopteran taxa, and our digital images will be broadly useful.

Of the 9-15 million Lepidoptera specimens in U.S. collections, roughly 6.1 million in LepNet collections are fully curated and ready to be digitized, and 4.1 million of the latter are from North America. We propose to digitize half of this North American material for the first time. This effort will cover 90% of the Lepidoptera holdings in the 24 smaller collections being digitized, and 50% or less of the five largest collections. We will digitize broadly and deeply (e.g., butterflies, Noctuidae) across all Lepidoptera in proportion to the number of specimens. Figure 3 shows the expected numbers for the 15 most common families represented in LepNet collections. We will also digitize specimens from 65 other, less diverse families, in proportion to their abundance in collections.

For simplicity, we refer to three general lepidopteran groups that broadly span the diversity of Lepidoptera [40]: the Macrolepidoptera (“macros”); the Microlepidoptera (“micros”, excluding butterflies) [41]; and butterflies. In order to obtain sufficient data across all families, our digitization-imaging strategy is skewed towards moths, which comprise 94% of North American lepidopteran species-level diversity. In comparison, butterflies comprise 6% of our fauna and yet 65% of 465,000 publicly available records are butterflies. We will nevertheless digitize butterflies in greater proportion than their species-level diversity, in part because the life histories of butterflies are better known than any other group of arthropods. LepNet will complement the recently funded ButterflyNet project (NSF-DEB GoLife), by first processing butterfly specimens in our digitization-imaging activities for this project. We are targeting 1.2 million records for macros and >400,000 records each for micros and butterflies. To our knowledge, there is no NSF-funded initiative digitizing Lepidoptera on a large scale.

Figure 3. Digitization & imaging will include the 15 most common families in LepNet collections. Y-axis reflects the number of specimens to be cataloged. Numbers at the top are the total records to digitize for each of the three groups. The 255,000 images will be proportional to digitization with regard to taxa.

40. Regier, J.C., et al., A Large-Scale, Higher-Level, Molecular Phylogenetic Study of the Insect Order Lepidoptera (Moths and Butterflies). PLoS ONE, 2013. 8.

41. Kawahara, A.Y. and J.W. Breinholt, Phylogenomics provides strong evidence for relationships of butterflies and moths. Proceedings. Biological sciences / The Royal Society, 2014. 281(1788): p. 20140970-20140970.

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