|Needs for image databases in protist taxonomy|
We have been constructing "protist image database" as one of those volunteer databases since 1995 (Fig.1, URL: http://protist.i.hosei.ac.jp/index.html). After publicizing our databases on the Internet, we found that image databases will play an important role for protist taxonomy. Because, as many protist species lack "type specimens" due to the difficulties of their preservation, protist taxonomy have mostly relied on drawings and their descriptions, causing confusions or inefficiency of species identification. In this situation, databases compiling images of many protists will partly, if not all, compensate the lack of type specimens by helping identification of species and serving as resources for taxonomic research in this group. |
Furthermore, many protist species are cosmopolitan, i.e., their distributions are worldwide. This means that many species will be found in samples collected even at small local area. Therefore, to identify protist species, we must always carry a large taxonomy guidebook describing all known species of protists, though it is actually impossible.
Thus, databasing protist images and their taxonomic descriptions and publicizing such databases through the Internet will help people who want to know the species name of protists as well as protist taxonomists themselves.