February 18, 2013

Internet resources about Microgastrinae. Part III

This is the third part of a series of posts discussing available, free, Internet resources on microgastrine wasps (Braconidae). The interested reader can retrieve the complete series by searching for the Tag "Internet Resources" within this blog.

Today I will be discussing the Digital Collection of the Taiwan Agriculture Research Institute (TARI), a project that claims it is aimed to avoid the unnecessary damage to its insect collection by providing access to images of its specimens. The website has a clear Copyright Statement -which can be read here. It is quite fair, and allows the visitor to use the information as long as the source is acknowledged.

I first found this site when doing some searches for Microgastrinae photos. And I was impressed by the quality and scope of the pictures. Last time I checked, it contained images of 514 species of Braconidae, including 77 microgastrines. [Of course, the project also shows photos of other insect orders, but I only checked for the  braconid wasps featured there]

Most of the specimens have been photographed several times (lateral and dorsal views, head frontal, details of the meso and/or metasoma, labels of the specimen, etc). Sometimes a couple of specimens per species are shown, and although it might be argued that there is duplication of images, it is however good to see more than one specimen.

Many species are from the Oriental region, including several of those described by Wilkinson in 1920-30. It is likely that the colour photos shown are the only available for most of those species, another reason to highly value this excellent effort. And, apart from the images, some basic information and references on the species are often provided.

I found that moving between photos is not in the most user-friendly format. One has to click on every species thumbnail, then click again to access the several pictures of that particular species, and then one more click to be able to see a larger image of each. I would have preferred a single access to the gallery of photos, and then a "Next" or "Previous" button to move throughout it. Of course, this is just a minor detail, and perhaps a matter of personal preference.

My only "criticism"  would be that all images have in the middle a transparent acronym of TARI, which is impossible to remove and affects the viewing (and clarity) of the picture. I do not know if it is possible to contact the project leaders and have access to the original pictures -which would be a plus for anyone doing research on the group.

But even if one can only see pictures with the TARI acronym, the images are clear enough to allow for comparison with other specimens/species. And because there are so many species that are not easy to find in collections, it is indeed a valuable website which I would strongly recommend to anyone working the groups featured there. 

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