Species Such As The Cyber-Centipede Get Big Help From Big Data
October 29, 2013

Species Such As The Cyber-Centipede Get Big Help From Big Data

[ Watch the Video: 3D Model Of Cyber-Centipede ]

April Flowers for redOrbit.com - Your Universe Online

In 1735, Swedish botanist Carl Linnaeus introduced taxonomic descriptions that are designed to allow scientists to tell one species from another.

A new study, published in Biodiversity Data Journal, describes a new futuristic method for describing new species that moves far beyond traditional ones. This new method combines next generation molecular methods, barcoding, and novel computing and imaging technologies. These techniques will test the model for big data collection, storage and management in biology.

In 2012, 13,494 new animal species were discovered by taxonomists. However, animal diversity on the planet continues to decline with unprecedented speed. This is causing concern in the scientific community, forcing them towards a so-called "turbo taxonomy" approach, where rapid species description is needed to manage conservation.

The international team of scientists from Bulgaria, Croatia, China, UK, Denmark, France, Italy, Greece and Germany, collaborating for the current study, acknowledge the necessity of fast description, however they present the other 'extreme' for taxonomic description: "a new species of the future." The study illustrates a holistic approach to the description of the new cave dwelling centipede species Eupolybothrus cavernicolus, recently discovered in a remote karst region of Croatia.

Along with the traditional morphological description, E. cavernicolus has become the first eukaryotic species for which scientists have provided a transcriptomic profile, DNA barcoding data, detailed anatomical X-ray microtomography (micro-CT), and a movie of the living specimen to document important traits of its behavior. Using micro-CT scanning for a new species allowed the team to create a high-resolution morphological and anatomical data set for the first time - the "cybertype" giving everyone virtual access to the specimen.

"Communicating the results of next generation sequencing effectively requires the next generation of data publishing," says Prof. Lyubomir Penev, Managing director of Pensoft Publishers. "It is not sufficient just to collect 'big' data. The real challenge comes at the point when data should be managed, stored, handled, peer-reviewed, published and distributed in a way that allows for re-use in the coming big data world", concluded Prof. Penev.

"Next generation sequencing is moving beyond piecing together a species genetic blueprint to areas such as biodiversity research, with mass collections of species in "metabarcoding" surveys bringing genomics, monitoring of ecosystems and species-discovery closer together," says Dr Scott Edmunds from BGI and Executive Editor of GigaScience. "This example attempts to integrate data from these different sources, and through curation in BGI and GigaScience's GigaDB database to make it interoperable and much more usable."