March 1, 2013

Updated list of Nearctic Microgastrinae (Hymenoptera: Braconidae)

This post introduces a new way I plan to use in this blog to share taxonomic information. I will start providing dynamic species lists -in the sense that data are new/current as of the date they are posted, and they will be kept updated as I post more information during the next few months.

The reader should check the page in this blog named "Species Lists". It provides updated information about species from a particular region. The first list posted includes all Microgastrinae known from the Nearctic Region (Canada, Greenland, and United States). You can access that data by clicking on the top left corner of the blog, or just by clicking  here.

A total of 338 Microgastrinae species (321 of them already described) are accounted for there, making it the most comprehensive list assembled so far for the region. Let's briefly summarize what was known before.

The last Nearctic list was published by Whitfield (1995). It included 288 microgastrines -282 when removing some questionable records: at least 5 species introduced into North America as biological control agents which are not likely to be established; and also cited Glyptapanteles longicornis as a valid species, overlooking its synonymization under G. pallipes by Papp (1983). 

During the 18 years since the publication of Whitfield's paper, 27 new species with Nearctic distribution have been described, and a handful of species already described from other regions have been recorded for North America.

For example, Fernandez-Triana (2010) provided an updated list of 225 species for Canada and Alaska, including 29 species determined only to genus level. Some of those undescribed species are also mentioned in the present list, because they are expected to be published soon (and when they are, the blog will update that information accordingly). However, I have left may more out -species that are clearly new records for the Nearctic but are not accounted for now, pending further study.

The last version of Taxapad (Yu et al., 2012) listed 320 Nearctic species -317 when removing three fossil species which do not count for the purpose of the extant diversity. Even though that list is almost as comprehensive as the one posted in this blog today, a major difference is the arrange of genera followed by each. Taxapad is based on Achterberg (2002), while the list in this blog mostly follows Mason (1981) and Whitfield (1995). The main reason is that historically, the majority of North American workers (and many others worldwide) have adopted Mason's system.

The arrangement of genera in Microgastrinae is a matter that has not been settled yet, and it will likely take several years of comprehensive molecular and morphological study. The main problem is that while taxonomists continue the process of assessing generic boundaries for microgastrine wasps, the non-taxonomic workers find themselves trapped between two systems naming species differently... and naming species is something truly critical for researchers working in the biological control of pests.

[I plan to dedicate one or few more posts to analyze further the differences between Mason and Achterberg approaches. In the meantime the list of this blog should help biocontrol workers to find names of many species which are of interest for Agriculture and Forestry research].

And what is next? I expect to build upon this work as more information is added in future posts. I will try to provide photos, distribution data, hosts, and basic information for every of the 330+ species listed here. Every time a species is featured in the blog, its name will be highlighted and will provide a link to that information. If you look at what is available right now, you will see that there 16 species already featured in this blog. That only represents about 3 % of the total species... hopefully in the next few weeks more species will be covered!

For now, I invite you to visit that page and browse the names of species currently recorded for the Nearctic. If you spot a mistake of any kind, please let me know. That is a dynamic list, meaning that I will keep adding, updating, and correcting things constantly. Pay attention to the date posted at the beginning of the page, it will tell you how recent was the latest update.

And, if you have the time, drop me a line to let me know which ways you think I could improve that information. I am open to modify things as much as needed to make them useful to potential users of the data. Thank you very much for any feedback you can provide!

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