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The Beetles

Posted on January 11, 2013 by in The OFI Blog


Meet Natural History’s Winter Break interns serving on the INOTAXA team. The INOTAXA project is a worldwide effort to assist scientists by documenting and making widely available (both through its own website and that of the Encyclopedia of Life) information on all life on Earth. 

The INOTAXA Intern Team.  We are Izaak Baker (Brown University ’15), Jacob Miller (Virginia Tech ’16),  Anna McAllister (Binghamton University ’14), and Carolyn Fado (The College of Wooster ’13).  

For our NMNH Winter Break internship, we contributed to the INOTAXA project by helping to transcribe the text of the Biologia Centrali-Americana, an encyclopedic collection from the late 19th and early 20th century detailing the biodiversity of Central America.  As Information Technology (IT) interns, some of our tasks included directly editing  XML transcriptions by hand, writing and debugging scripts to automate certain parts of the process, and proofreading multiple times to ensure correctness. 

Specifically, we worked on the sections involving the orders Coleoptera (beetles) and Araneida (spiders).  The text describes over 50,000 separate species, of which approximately half are insects, and half again of those are beetles!  Despite this enormous number, and the fact that this tome only represents animals alive in Central and South America, scientists estimate that the total number of species currently in existence vastly dwarfs the number of species  known by science (with estimates of the percentage known ranging from below 2% to around 40%).