Universidad Central de Venezuela (2012)

Neotropical Leaf Beetles

Project Details

Grant Amount: $92,494
Contact: Dr. Vilma Savini
Contact Email: vilma.savini 'atsign' miza-ucv.org.ve
Funding Dates: 6/15/12 - 6/14/14

Project News



Leaf beetles comprise one of the largest families of living creatures (ca. 60.000 species worldwide). Their value as indicators of habitat quality, markers for biodiversity hotspot analysis, and biological control agents of weeds is well known. The Museum of the Institute of Agricultural Zoology (MIZA) has one of the most important collections in the Western Hemisphere with over 8.500 type specimens and almost 70% of the known genera for the Neotropical region; nevertheless is one of the least known collections.

Key Objectives and Activities

This project aims to digitalize specimen label data, photograph species and make available the associated bibliography as a PDF file. MIZA also plans to buy equipment, software and hardware to upgrade our Data and Imaging Laboratory in order to: 1) make the whole process of photographic documentation of the taxa more streamlined, 2) complete the digitization and conversion into PDF of all the reprint collection of the Bechynes, comprising more than 400 papers that make up the basis of modern Chrysomelid systematics and are currently of limited accessibility, including all of the Bechyne´s authored papers (close to 200) and unpublished catalogs.

Planned Outputs and Outcomes

  • Provide researchers around the world an invaluable tool for the study of this keystone group of arthropods.
  • Share project’s data through biodiversity networks such as GBIF.
  • Consolidation of a Biodiversity Informatics and Imaging Laboratory
  • Support graduate and undergraduate students that will undertake digitizing the specimens, geo-reference localities and photographing species

Primary Software Platforms

For data mobilization, storage and preliminary analysis MIZA uses the collection management software Specify developed by the Biodiversity Institute of the University of Kansas. Image capture and stacking are being performed with Sofortbild and Zerene Stacker respectively.

Results to Date

During the course of this project over 33.000 specimens have been digitized to date, representing 372 genera and over 3.100 species from 37 different countries around the world (Africa, Asia, North America, South America and Europe). Well over one third of the species have been photographed from different views and when necessary intraspecific variation (color variants of the same species) has also been documented.

Lessons Learned

Preliminary analysis of the data at hand shows that MIZA has been neglecting the importance of this collection in the study of Neotropical leaf beetles. The richness of the species represented, is only rivaled by the diversity of collecting localities, many of which are from natural areas that have disappeared or are critically endangered (ie. Atlantic forest of Brazil, Andean cloud forests). This information is already giving the project team a baseline for ecological and taxonomical studies of leaf beetles in this part of the world.

Notes from JRS

JRS is proud to support this project on digitizing an important collection of physical specimens and the associated historical literature.  This grant is one of several working on tropical insects or beetles and we hope for knowledge sharing among our grantees.  The neotropical leaf beetles are remarkable for their colors and structures and this grant is producing high resolution, 3-D views using image stacking technology.

Last Updated: February 28th, 2017

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