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These are our first round of results! We wanted to make sure students and teachers were able to see and explore some results before the end of Term 4, so we’ve used the DNA barcodes to quickly identify some specimens and get an approximation for how many species there might be. We’ll be checking, correcting and clarifying these preliminary results over the next few months.

Scroll down to find your school and explore your results!

We’ve also provided some ideas for ways you can use these results as a teacher.

Taxonomist Tales: Read the newest stories and exciting discoveries as our taxonomists look through our specimens.

Publications: Read the stories that have been published in scientific journals

First release: 14 November 2022

We sent 14,060 specimens to Canada to be DNA barcoded!

DNA barcoding is sequencing a small section of the genome that helps to identify specimens based on a reference database, and can also give us an approximation for how many different species may be present amongst our specimens.

Whilst some of our specimens didn’t sequence successfully, most did – we have 12,060 DNA barcodes that have been added to the Barcode of Life Database! From these 12,060 specimens, we estimate there are 5465 different preliminary species (known as ‘OTUs’: Operational Taxonomic Units).

56% of these OTUs (aka “preliminary species”, called BINs on the Barcode of Life Database), are brand new records for the database! This is a really great contribution to learning about the diversity and distribution of insects in Australia.

As this is just preliminary data, we can’t say for certain each OTU is definitely a different species, but it’s our first hypothesis (guess) using the DNA barcode data.

Number of specimens DNA barcoded for each arthropod order:

Malaise traps preferentially catch lots of flies and wasps, so these are easily the groups with the largest number of specimens DNA barcoded!

Explore the results for each school:

What happens next?

Right now we have some amazing taxonomists from all over Australia, and even internationally, receiving some of our specimens to help us confirm the DNA barcode identifications. These taxonomists may even spot that we’ve collected an undescribed, new-to-science species from one of the groups they are currently working on. If this is the case, we will help facilitate the students helping to choose the scientific name of this new species!

Taxonomists are scientists with specialist knowledge about different groups of living things. Whilst DNA barcoding the insect specimens is a great way to get a quick first look at the insect biodiversity, without taxonomists these ‘OTUs’ are not able to become formal species with a scientific name. We need many more taxonomists to be funded in Australia to be able to describe and name all of our insects, and we encourage everyone to support the science of taxonomy whenever you have the chance!

Over the next few months we’ll also be correcting and checking all of the DNA-based identifications, and updating the data on this website as we get new information from the Barcode of Life Database and from our taxonomists.

Taxonomist Tales:

Click here to find out the newest stories and exciting discoveries as taxonomists look through our specimens.