The Hymenoptera Ontology: Part of a Transformation in Systematic and Genome Science

Project: Research project

Project Details


Sawflies, ants, bees, wasps (Hymenoptera) comprise an extraordinarily diverse lineage of insects, with more than 115,000 described species and likely 1,000,000 species yet to be discovered. These insects serve critical roles as pollinators, parasitoids, herbivores, and as models for research on social behavior, physiology, speciation genetics, and to explore parasite-host interactions. The vast anatomical diversity exhibited by these organisms, coupled with a large body of disparate research and the eccentricities of investigators, yields numerous concurrent and only partially overlapping vocabularies that describe Hymenoptera anatomy. Centuries of Hymenoptera research, therefore, remain clouded by inconsistent terminology (for example, 'annellus' is used for two different head structures and for a part of the male genitalia).

This project will bring Hymenoptera researchers together to build a consensus structured vocabulary (the Hymenoptera Anatomy Ontology) that 1) enables discovery of research results from publications, 2) empowers taxonomists to efficiently describe/ diagnose species and 3) provide improved access to information for policy makers, farmers, land managers and the general public. Tools will be developed that allow collaborators to virtually build ontologies for any group of species, while making these data useful to the research community via a Web-based anatomical atlas and application programming interface; all software will be open source (

Three postdocs and three students will receive training in an emerging

field: ontologies in evolutionary biology.

Effective start/end date4/1/092/28/13


  • National Science Foundation: $1,411,508.00


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