Welcome to digitalSpiders

The Digital Fauna of Southeast Asian Spiders is a resource for linking specimen images and DNA barcodes from ecologically structured spider inventories in the region. Ecologically structured inventories are rich sources of information about patterns of biodiversity. But structured inventories of spiders and other diverse arthropod communities in tropical regions face several well-known challenges. Communities are generally characterized by a few common species and a very large number of rare species, and large samples are required to elucidate comparative patterns. The taxonomic literature relevant to such studies tends to be fragmentary and uneven in coverage and quality. So, ecological studies typically rely on "morphospecies" concepts. This means sorting samples using the skills of a morphological taxonomist to classify the collection, but devoting little time to determining whether or not each species has been described or what its name might be. This approach is sufficient for elucidating biodiversity patterns within a particular study, but makes it cumbersome for results to be compared between independent studies. As a consequence, independent biodiversity studies on the same taxa in the same region cannot build on each other but remain limited to the scope of each individual study. In an era of biodiversity crisis, climate change, and other challenges, the scientific and public spheres have common interest in synergies that make research products more responsive to the questions of the day. Thus, practices that make it easier to compare and combine data across different inventory studies are highly desirable for deriving the maximum information value from our research investment.
The data displayed here are based on a series of rapid structured inventories from Vietnam. All adult spider specimens collected were sorted to morphospecies. Morphospecies concepts were cross-checked against DNA barcodes (www.boldsystems.org). Images of all morphospecies collected are available on Morphbank (www.morphbank.net), the leading taxonomic resource for archiving digital images online. Initially, only a small fraction of the species included here were identified to species. But providing image libraries and DNA barcodes make it much more likely that independent investigators will be able to determine which species from their studies are shared with those shown here. As more inventories of spiders in Southeast Asia use our images and DNA barcodes, and contribute their own to freely accessible online databases, biodiversity patterns over a wide spatial scale will emerge. As the number of participating studies grows, the synergistic benefits will multiply. Images and DNA barcodes shown here are also intended to increase the impact and visibility of the collection to the taxonomic research community because specialists can easily see what was collected, request loans, and contribute identification. We encourage taxonomists to use these specimens in their research, and to follow a cybertaxonomic publication model emphasizing open access and data dissemination through a combination of print and online resources (for examples, see Miller, Griswold, & Haddad, 2010; Miller, Griswold, & Yin, 2009).

Literature Cited
Miller, J. A., Griswold, C. E. & Haddad, C. R. (2010) Taxonomic revision of the spider family Penestomidae (Araneae, Entelegynae). Zootaxa, 2534, 1-36.
Miller, J. A., Griswold, C. E. & Yin, C.-M. (2009) The symphytognathoid spiders of the Gaoligongshan, Yunnan, China (Araneae: Araneoidea): Systematics and diversity of micro-orbweavers. ZooKeys, 11, 9-195.

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