15 May 2015
Online volunteers help scientists speed up species discovery and focus research
Worldwide, an estimated five million invertebrate species are yet to be described. Invertebrates – animals without a backbone or vertebral column – are the most abundant group of animals on earth and yet they are the least documented. In Australia alone there are around 98,000 described species and an estimated 222,000 that are still unknown to science.
Scientists seeking to describe these species must compare them to similar specimens, held in natural history museums across Australia and around the world. Much of the important information on these specimens is only found on their collection label or in handwritten journals or registers.
The South Australia Museum holds around two million specimens in its terrestrial invertebrate collection and around 1.75 million marine invertebrates. The Museum has begun a digitisation program to help address this backlog.