Database


The information summarized at this web site is taken from a database that I created and maintain. Its primary purpose is to track information on geographic distributions and hosts based on specimen data for New World species of bark and ambrosia beetles. It is the source of data for creating distribution maps and analyzing patterns of host use. It tracks specific specimens deposited in museums or cited in the literature. The database includes 67,664 collection records; 7,749 names (all species found in the New World and an additional 5,334 synonyms), and 13,720 images of 2,221 species.


  1. History and Future
  2. Contributing Records
  3. Geographic Coverage
  4. Structure
  5. Records
  6. Information sources
  7. Note on Records from Wood (1982)



HISTORY AND FUTURE return to top


The database began as a tool for keeping track of specimens that I had seen from loans, museum visits, and expanded to include literature references relevant to specific research papers and projects. It has passed through versions in EXCEL, FoxPro, SAS and in its primary form is maintained as a relational database in FileMaker Pro (currently version 12). On this web site the data tables are stored in MySQL (5.1). This allows the data to be used dynamically in summarizing distribution and host information, creating dynamic distribution maps, lists, and indices.


For the foreseeable future, the MySQL version will be a secondary mirror of the primary FileMaker Pro database. I intend to gradually make more of the information in the database available to a wider audience, but have no short term plans for allowing others to contribute records. This may change depending on collaborative interest and or external support.


I am still actively adding records so the database will continue to grow in size and completeness.


CONTRIBUTING RECORDS return to top


Please contact me if you have distribution records, host records or collection data that you would like to contribute. At the moment there is no mechanism for users to directly add or edit data but I would be happy to provide a template for entering data (or even convert the data myself). The source of any records will be clearly indicated. This would be particularly useful if you have maintained a database or spreadsheet of records that have been used for publication.



GEOGRAPHIC COVERAGE return to top


In decreasing order of priority, the database tracks species found in:


  1. Canada, U.S., and Mexico: Essentially complete for published information, still lacking South American collection event data from Wood (2007). In addition to published information, data from numerous specimens in collections are included.
  2. Central America. Approximately 75% complete.
  3. South Americ. A great deal of information is included for South American species that also occur in North America and Mesoamerica. I am basically keeping up with new publications anywhere in the region. At this point there has been no systematic attempt to exhaustively include strictly South American species.
  4. Introduced species: Complete synonymy, host lists, and distribution information from areas outside the New World have only been input for all species found in Canada, the U.S., and Mexico.

My main priority is to fill in the gaps for the 2 regions of major interest to me, but I am making an extra attempt to keep on top of new publications so coverage for literature of the last 25 years (outside of catalogs) is actually nearly complete.


STRUCTURE return to top


The database consists of numerous tables, but the most important include information on:


  • Collection events: who, what, when, where, etc.
  • Species: current names, synonyms, species attributes.
  • Bibliography: information on literature from which records are taken.
  • Images: information on images.

Other tables include information on museums and collections, taxonomic authorities, taxonomic transactions, higher classification, and location of specimens. More detail is available on request.


RECORDS return to top


The database is structured to capture data related to collection of specimens as a taxonomic tool. While information and linkages to nomenclature, collections and bibliography are included, these represent supporting functions and are not the primary thrust at this time. The emphasis on taxonomy has some very specific consequences in the design and use of the database.


  1. All taxonomically useful data are taken from collectiosn of actual specimens, deposited in museums and available for verification by any subsequent reviewer. In addition to basic fields on locality and circumstances of capture, there are also numerous fields related to curatorial details of number of specimens, their physical location, person making the identification, etc.
  2. The basic record is the series or collection event. That is, all specimens of the same species with identical collection data. While specimen level databasing has value, it requires an effort that is almost an order of magnitude greater.
  3. When dealing with published sources, the information must be dissected into “collection image” events to the degree possible. This breaks up the information into discrete records that match the format of physical specimens actually seen and vouchered. The amount of information included varies considerably. For example, in his revision of the genus Pityophthorus, Bright (1991) includes complete specimen collection data and museum data for almost all species and specimens seen. This makes direct and complete data entry possible. At the other extreme, in his treatment of the bark and ambrosia beetles of Canada (Bright, 1976) no specimen data are included at all and the only information that can be extracted are province level data (presence/absence). Even though dot distribution maps are included, the data cannot be reliably extracted from these low resolution figures. In any event, between these 2 extremes, some level of collection and curatorial data can be extracted. Even though the numbers and location of specimens are not known, it can generally be assumed that some of these specimens were seen and verified by the authors. Finally, valuable distribution and biological information can also be gleaned from non-taxonomic publications. A recent paper on pheromones of Hylesinus pruinosus (Shepherd et al., 2010) gives a new locality in Mississippi (not previously reported from that state) and lists where voucher specimens are held and who made the identification.
  4. One consequence is that a “bottom-up” approach is favored or a “top-down” approach. In a top-down approach, one could start with the most recent taxonomic catalogs (Wood and Bright, 1992a, 1992b) and supplements (Bright and Skidmore, 1997, 2002). The problem is that these sources are highly condensed and only list countries, states and provinces. In a bottom-up approach individual collection event records are the starting point and taxonomic catalogs with their non-specific information are only cited when no other published or museum record can be found. In practice a combined approach is needed, citing the catalogs only when a more specific reference cannot be found.
  5. No attempt has been made to capture all data from all publications, or even within a specific publication. When entering data from checklists and revisions, the general rule of thumb is to only input data if the record provides significant range or host information that has not been previously entered. Non-specific records (e.g., “Alabama”) are not generally added if a more specific record has already been included. On the other hand, I don’t go out of my way to eliminate records after the fact. For example, most records for North American species of Pityophthorus were taken first from Bright (1981). Less detailed records for the same species were not repeated from Wood (1982).
  6. Particular groups of specimens may have been reviewed by more than one person and have been cited in more than one publication. This degree of detail may not be of interest to general users but is vital for further taxonomic research. In some cases it is obvious that the same specimens are treated, in others a certain amount of speculation is involved. Dodge (1938) listed specific collection data for many specimens collected in Minnesota although it is not clear where these specimens are today. Wood (1982) cited some of the exact same localities, very strongly suggesting that he reviewed at least some of the same specimens. Finally I have personally seen specimens of some of these species with the same collection data on visits to the USNM. When possible, these different publications and identifications are linked to the same collection data record. This preserves the additional detail while avoiding proliferation of duplicate records.

INFORMATION SOURCES return to top


  1. Publications. Records have been taken from 329 published sources.
  2. Approximately 11,000 records for 287 species have been added from trap catches around the U.S. as part of the USFS Early Detection-Rapid Response Program for the years 2006-2011. Many of these specimens have not been mounted or deposited in museums. In the cases where specimens have been deposited, the information is not available. In most cases, the name of the person making the identifications is also unavailable. To proetct the privacy of cooperating proiperty owners, localities are given only to the nearest population center.
  3. An additional 1,700 records have been included from an online database of the Arthropod Research Collection of Michigan State University.
  4. Approximately 900 records have been included from an online database of the University of Arizona Insect Collection
  5. 18,702 records are based on museum specimens examined by T.H. Atkinson from a large number of collections.

NOTE ON RECORDS FROM WOOD (1982) return to top


For most widely distributed species Wood only included a summary of distribution localities. It became apparent when examining records from his earlier publications that in his 1982 book he abbreviated localities, such that "25 mi. west of El Salto, Durango" often became merely "El Salto, Durango". In his earlier publications he typically expressed distances in miles and elevations in feet. In the 1982 publication these were converted to kilometers and meters, respectively, but only approximately, such that an exact conversion of elevation from an earlier publication typically does not match that given in the 1982 book. Early in his career he did occasionally publish new distribution records but later only published significant data in descriptions of new species so that many of his collection records have never been published in their entirety. If users notice a discrepancy between data attributed to Wood (1982) cited here and the literal wording in the monograph it is because the 1982 record has been corrected from an earlier publication, publications by other authors citing the same specimens (e.g., Bright 1981), or examination of specimen labels.


For the most part, Wood did not indicate the location of specimens cited in his distribution lists. Most specimens were in his personal collection (anything collected by him other than a few types), the Canadian National Collection where he worked early in his career, or in the US National Museum. In some cases it has been possible to link his records to specimens in specific collections based on examination of specimen labels and publications of other authors.