Monday, 9 September 2013

Global Species Database Spotlight: BdelloideaBase

Jacob 'trying out' an Armascirus mite t-shirt

The interview below is with Professor Jacob den Heyer who this year retires from his taxonomic work. He first contributed to the Catalogue of Life in 2010 with CunaxidBase. This was substituted with the extended BdelloideaBase in the 2011 Annual Checklist. The Bdelloidea are free-living, predatory mites with a cosmopolitan distribution, inhabiting practically all temperate zones. The Catalogue of Life wishes to thank Jacob for this unique database which contributes to the quality and taxonomic coverage of the Catalogue. Future updates will be provided by Michael Skvarla of the Dept. of Entomology, University of Arkansas.

Database name:


Your name: 

Prof. Jacob den Heyer (D.Sc.)

Your position: 

Compiler and custodian of the database until July 2013.

Where is database located?
South Africa

What taxon/taxa does your database cover?
Mite Superfamily Bdelloidea which includes the families Cunaxidae and Bdellidae.

How many species names do you hold? 
Cunaxidae 405
Bdellidae 267

How many synonyms?
Cunaxidae 6
Bdellidae 66

How and when did the database come about?

It began in 1974 when I started studying Bdelloidea for my Doctorate.

How many people work on the database?
On Cunaxidae, solely myself but on Bdellidae, partly myself with assistance and cooperation from Dr F. Hernandes.

Armascirus Den Heyer , 1978

What software do you use?
Microsoft Office Excel

How complete is it?
Over 95%

Is it continuing to grow and if so, how?
Yes, since 2010 (XIII ICA) Cunaxidae has grown in number of species by 19% and Bdellidae by 9%.

Are there any interesting areas of taxonomic contention within your group? 

Historically there are. I published the "first" full classification system for the Cunaxidae in 1980. In 1992 Dr Robert L. Smiley published an alternative system based on different/other features as norms. This resulted in a split of cunaxid authors. Most followed my system but the less-informed (w.r.t. Cunaxidae) followed Smiley 1992. The disadvantage is that many of the latter made the same errors as Smiley. 

Do you have a favourite species or group of taxa?
Yes, the family Cunaxidae

Do you have any fun or unusual names in your group and if so what are they?
Not really.

What interested you in taxonomy? 
For my M.Sc. degree I studied Soil Biology and found that the South African mite material was mostly undescribed. For my D.Sc. studies I was given the task of studying the family Cunaxidae taxonomically. This fitted me perfectly.

Do you think traditional taxonomy has a future?
If traditional taxonomy is combined with modern photographic techniques, good drawings using computer programming, numerical taxonomy and even DNA techniques, then I still see a future for it.

If you had the funds what improvements (if any) would you make to the database?
I would add more ecological data such as distribution and habitat preferences.

Why did you decide to contribute to the Catalogue of Life?
I felt that I was more or less "hitting two flies with one stroke", viz. compiling a species list of the families Cunaxidae and Bdellidae and making a contribution to CoL. With this I am the first (and only) African biologist to do so up-to-now.

Do you submit to any other biodiversity aggregators than the Catalogue of Life?

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