Butterfly-Host Plant Associations at Higher Taxonomic Levels - published in PLoS ONE

You can find a new release about the article published in PLoS ONE


Our first publication based on the database of Butterfly-Host Plant Associations is now available at PLoS ONE

Ferrer-Paris JR, Sánchez-Mercado A, Viloria ÁL, Donaldson J (2013) Congruence and Diversity of Butterfly-Host Plant Associations at Higher Taxonomic Levels. PLoS ONE 8(5): e63570. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0063570

This work was only possible thanks to the availability of digital resources, which represent an important opportunity for the analysis of biotic associations. Host plant-associations and distribution records, tools for validation of taxonomic and nomenclatural information, and detailed phylogenies for both taxonomic groups, were all available in different sources thanks to the contribution of several individuals and research groups. You can find several links, references and comments about these resources in our site.

Obviously, digital access makes everything faster and easier, but it does not mean that it comes "ready to use", not yet. We spend the first six months of our postdoc at Sanbi (october 2011 to march 2012) searching, digitizing and validating all recorded associations. The heterogeneity in the quality of data compiled required careful revision and checking in order to combine them into a useful quantitative dataset. Not that we started from scratch, quite the opposite, we acknowledge and are grateful that several other people did exactly the same years before, investing personal or institutional time and resources to create wonderful tools and data bases like the Lepidoptera Host Plant database at the NHM in London and Lepidoptera and some other life forms at FUNET. However these resources depend on the activity of single curators, and can become orphaned if the project is closed or the responsible person stops working, and the static information stored in them can become outdated in a constantly changing taxonomic world, or with the continuous publication of new observations and rearing records.

Validating large amounts of isolated data and keeping this information up to date represent major challenges for online services. The approach of the Encyclopedia of Life is to give the users complete access to the data and enough control to curate and debate about its content, this would make it possible for an interested community of researchers to share access to the data and improve the quality of the records, vetting content according to the reliability of the original source. We think this approach will lead the way to interesting developments in the area of species interactions, as we are starting to see improved technologies for storage and visualization of this kind of data.

As we progress in our project, now back at IVIC, we expect to evaluate how much of the knowledge on butterfly-host plant associations is already available in freely available sources like EOL and the Biodiversity Heritage Library, and contribute to make it available in a standardized format that will allow other users to plug this data directly into new analysis to improve our knowledge of the global network of biodiversity. 


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Scratchpads developed and conceived by (alphabetical): Ed Baker, Katherine Bouton Alice Heaton Dimitris Koureas, Laurence Livermore, Dave Roberts, Simon Rycroft, Ben Scott, Vince Smith