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About Systematic Entomology

by Ted Snyder*, Lewis Deitz**, John Heraty***. and Brian Weigmann**

Sytematics can be defined as "the science of the diversity of organisms" (Mayr E, Ashlock P. 1991. Principles of Systematic Zoology. NY: McGraw-Hill), and is therefore broadly concerned with the planet's biodiversity rather than a narrow range of areas. The duty of systematists is to survey and catalogue the diversity among living organisms, generate the means for the accurate identification of insects, derive phylogenetic classifications that reflect our accumulated knowledge of life forms, and provide stable and universal nomenclature. These tasks are essential to understand, manage, and conserve the world's biota.

Go here for a brief history of systematics.

Systematic Entomology is a vital branch of systematics. Out of about 1.4 million organisms on this planet, about 750,000 are insects, 41,000 are vertebrates, and 250,000 are plants. The world's abundant insect fauna remains largely undescribed: it is estimated that the total number of insects is between 5 and 30 million. Thus, at best, we can only identify about 28% of all insect species.

But unfortunately, habitat destruction and environmental deterioration threaten to destroy much of insect diversity within the coming century, before we can possibly understand the importance of many of these species in the world's ecosystem.

Furthermore, of the known species, little has been learned of their biology or the importance of their interactions in the environment. Without such knowledge, we can make few predictions as to what species are crucial for maintaining diverse and healthy ecosystems. The importance of systematics in addressing issues of biodiversity and the decline of expertise has been discussed at length in scientific articles, popular journals, books, and newspaper articles.

It is an overwhelming task for the existing professionals to identify and understand the insects from around the world that are being used in diversity studies, ecological projects, biological control projects, the monitoring of environmental change, or other aspects of biology for which a scientific name is necessary to communicate information. But, if identifications are not accurate, then any science that relies upon those determinations will be flawed.

This site brings together Internet based systematic resources for researchers and brings the field of insect systematics to the public.

*Collection Management, NCSU Libraries, and Department of Entomology, NC State University

**Department of Entomology, NC State University

***Department of Entomology, University of California, Riverside




Last Modified: Wednesday, 28-Jul-2010 14:57:04 EDT

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