Collaborative Research: Plants, Herbivores, and Parasitoids: A Model System for the Study of Tri-Trophic Associations

Robert Naczi, Melissa Tulig, and collaborators

Data on plant taxa, insect herbivores, and their parasitoids are currently not accessible in a uniform manner, nor are comprehensive data on their relationships available online. The chief goal of the Tri-trophic TCN (thematic collections network) is to solve these problems through specimen digitization and online integration. The botanical targets are North American members of the families most important as hosts for the herbivores. These 20 plant families include many of the largest families, and account for more than 8000 species in North America. The target herbivores are members of the major insect order Hemiptera (true bugs and their relatives) and total more than 11,000 species in North America. These insects are tremendously economically important as agricultural pests and beneficial predators of other insect pests. The parasitoids being digitized are members of another major insect order, Hymenoptera. This TCN, funded in July 2011, is utilizing the combined resources of 32 museums (14 herbaria, 18 insect collections) in an effort to capture and make available ca. 4 million specimen records, including ca. 2.6 million plants. By assembling and integrating data on geographic distributions, host associations, and phenologies, our tri-trophic approach will benefit a wide range of research questions and practical applications.

More information: Tri-Trophic Thematic Collection Network