Royal Museum for Central Africa (2016)

The Pollinator Information Network for Sub-Saharan Two-Winged Insects (PIN-DIP)

Project Details

Grantee Organization: Royal Museum for Central Africa
Grant Amount: $209,000
Contact: Kurt Jordaens
Contact Email: kurt.jordaens 'atsign'


The stability of ecological communities, and the ecosystem services they provide, depend not only on the members of that community (species present), but on the interactions among them as well. Therefore, when trying to quantify how pollinators contribute to, and are affected by, agricultural production, and conservation goals, you need to know who pollinates whom. This is the concept of a plant-pollinator network. As the term “network” implies, the webs of interactions among different types of pollinators and plants are complex, and they can only be well understood if all the species are known. For insect pollinators, some groups are much better characterized than others; we know much more about butterflies, bees and beetles than we do about flies, for instance, even though some groups of flies are also very important pollinators. This project, headed by the Royal Museum for Central Africa (RCMA) will help redress that gap for sub-Saharan Africa, by partnering with museums in Africa to digitize and publish existing records on the group of insects known as Diptera (flies and mosquitoes), and increase the size and value of museum collections through field collections, and by documenting pollination interaction webs for the group.

Key Objectives and Activities

  1. Database five of the main sub-Saharan Diptera reference collections and make these data publicly available.
  2. Increase the numbers of Diptera reference specimens through collection of new material on two field trips.
  3. Train researchers and collection curators with basic knowledge in taxonomy and ecology of Diptera.
  4. Create an online resource that shares results with scientific community and public, and offers a platform for a network of African and global researchers, both taxonomists and ecologists, interested in Africa Diptera
  5. Disseminate results in scientific community through peer-reviewed publications and conference presentations.

Planned Outputs

  • Digitization and publication (with GBIF) of 36,000 specimens of Afrotropical pollinating Diptera from six collections and seven taxonomic families.
  • Two field campaigns to collect new Diptera specimens (~1,500 – 2,000), which will be digitized and published.
  • Development and launch of Africa Diptera website, supporting a network of ecologists and taxonomists, as well as data sharing.
  • Publication of digitized records of target groups in Global Biodiversity Information Facility (GBIF)
  • Development of additional tools for Afrotropical Syrphidae, a group sufficiently well known to support advances in taxonomic resources including: Lucid identification key for Syrphidae genera, checklist for Togo, Benin, and Nigeria, updated identification for two Syrphid genera (Eristalinus, and Eristalodes), and revised version of the Catalogue of the Afrotropical Syrphidae.
  • Training for 30 African researchers and collection curators on Dipteran taxonomy and biodiversity informatics, including participation in training courses at National Museums of Kenya, and Iziko University.
  • Organization of a symposium: The role of Diptera in plant-pollinator networks, at the 2018 International Congress of Dipterology.
  • White paper on conservation status of Afrotropical Diptera.
  • Online quarterly newsletter on Diptera pollination biology.

Planned Outcomes

The assembly and publication of primary biodiversity data on this understudied group, combined with field collections and ecological data will contribute to a baseline on status of Dipteran flies in the region. Through capacity building activities, and by creating a focus point for data and discussions, this project will foster a multi-disciplinary network of scientists and researchers that can collaborate to address knowledge gaps in taxonomy and ecology of pollinating flies. Improved knowledge of Dipteran flies in the region is needed to call attention to their important role as pollinators.

Last Updated: December 5th, 2017

Results to Date

  • MOUs developed and signed between all partner organizations.
  • The Pollinator Information Network for Two-Winged Insects (PINDIP) project website launched in September.
  • The two issues of the PINDIP Newsletter were published and distributed to colleagues. Newsletters included short summaries of projects on pollinating insects of the Aftrotropical region, the announcement of two congresses, and a call for a training course on Diptera identification, taxonomy and systematics.
  • A training course in taxonomy and systematics of African pollinating files was hosted by the National Museums of Kenya and the International Centre of Insect Physiology and Ecology in November 2017.
  • All partners have begun digitization of Diptera collections. Label information has been collected for over 60,000 Dipteran specimens thus far.
  • Dr. Jordaens organized a symposium at the 9th International Congress of Dipterology (Windhoek, Namibia, 25-30 November 2018) entitled “The importance of Diptera in plant-pollinator networks”.

Lessons Learned

Working with an international team of collaborators brought about unforeseen challenges for the PINDIP project. The first logistical hurdle the team faced was development of MOUs. Progress on this objective was delayed due to a lack of assistance from the RMCA legal representative, and as a result, payments to partner organizations were delayed. Additionally, for some partner organizations the total amount of money to be transferred exceeded the maximum limit of what RMCA can transfer directly. The team therefore needed approval from the RMCA Inspector of Finances,which took more than two months. Overall, payments to partner organizations were delayed by about four months. Despite the slow start, the team continues to move forward and make great progress digitizing and collecting Diptera records.

Related Publications

  • Jordaens K, G Goergen, M Virgilio, T Backeljau, A Vokaer & M De Meyer (2015) DNA barcoding to improve the taxonomy of the Afrotropical hoverflies (Insecta: Diptera: Syrphidae). PlosOne 10: 1-15. (link)
  • Jordaens, K., G Goergen, A Kirk-Spriggs, A Vokaer, T Backeljau & M De Meyer (2015) A second New World hover fly species recorded from the Old World (Diptera: Syrphidae: Toxomerus floralis) with description of larval pollen feeding ecology. Zootaxa 4044: 567-576.
  • Young, AD, AR Lemmon, JH Skevington, X Mengual, G Ståhls, M Reemer, K Jordaens, S Kelso, EM Lemmon, M Hauser, M De Meyer, M Misof, BM Wiegmann (2016) Anchored enrichment dataset for true flies (order Diptera) reveals insights into the phylogeny of flower flies (family Syrphidae). BMC Evolutionary Biology 16: 143. (link)

Primary Software Platforms

The project website will be hosted on Scratchpad which will also host project data. Project data will also be uploaded to GBIF, and publication data sets will be be published through Dryad Digital Repository.

Project Director Biography

Kurt Jordaens obtained his Ph.D. in 1999 at the University of Antwerp (UAntwerp, Belgium) on a taxonomic study of hermaphroditic slugs and snails with a mixed-breeding system. For ten years thereafter, he built up extensive experience in the molecular taxonomy and phylogeny of invertebrates as a post-doctoral researcher at UAntwerp. In 2009, he joined the Joint Experimental Molecular Unit at the Royal Museum for Central Africa (RMCA), focused on the development of DNA barcoding tools to identify animals. He obtained the status of work leader at the RMCA in April 2011, and now focuses on the (molecular) taxonomy, phylogeny, and ecology of Afrotropical hover flies (Syrphidae) and fruit flies (Tephritidae).

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