Publishing trends and productivity in insect taxonomy from 1946 through 2012 based on an analysis of the Zoological Record for four species-rich families

Yang Liu, Christopher Dietrich, Susan Braxton, Yang Wang


Insect taxonomy is fundamental to global biodiversity research, but few studies have been conducted to track progress in this field using objective criteria. This study reports publishing trends in the taxonomy of four diverse, globally-distributed insect families from 1946 to 2012 to elucidate recent progress and the current status of insect taxonomy. Publications included in the Zoological Record online literature database were analyzed for Cicadellidae (leafhoppers), Miridae (plant bugs), Pyralidae (moths) and Staphylinidae (rove beetles). Data on numbers of new species, article length, species description length, authorship and collaborations, and taxonomic journals were extracted and compiled for each year. The results showed that (1) the number of taxonomic papers increased before 1980, followed by a steep decline with subsequent partial recovery; (2) the number of papers describing new species generally mirrored the trend in numbers of new species, suggesting no overall change in the proportion of larger, synthetic works (monographs) and more such work is encouraged; (3) the average number of new species described per publication decreased over the time period investigated, but with an increase in the average description pages per new species; (4) researchers from Europe and North America continue to produce the most taxonomic research on three of the four families, but the main center for Cicadellidae taxonomy has recently shifted to Asia; (5) collaboration among authors within and across continents has increased as indicated by increases in coauthored papers; and (6) journal prevalence differed for the four families and the top 10 most utilized journals for each family were given out for reference. Based on the analysis of the publication trend of the four families, we found that the overall trend toward increasing rates of species discovery is encouraging. But more human resources training and financial support on taxonomic work are required in order to complete a global faunistic inventory in a reasonable timeframe. Future study that conducts more in-depth and comprehensive analysis based on more families is required to reflect the overall trend of the insect taxonomy.


biodiversity; Cicadellidae; Miridae; Pyralidae; Staphylinidae

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