specimens barcoded:  16643
species barcoded:  1420
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         Among the arthropods, ants (Hymenoptera: Formicidae) are an especially diverse and ecologically important group whose social behavior and ecological dominance have been the subject of intense biological study. However, species-level identification by non-specialists are notoriously difficult and present a major impediment to both greater understanding of the roles ant play in the natural world - and access to the fine-grain biodiversity information that ants would provide. This DNA barcoding initiative will speed identifications, and enable confident association of reproductive males and females and permit a greater understanding (and dissemination of that understanding) of ant biology.

    DNA barcoding is a scientific proposition based on the hypothesis that a short, standardized segment of the genome can enable species identification and discovery. There is clear evidence that a ca. 650-bp segment positioned near the 5' terminus of the mitochondrial cytochrome c oxidase subunit I (COI) gene is extraordinarily effective in discriminating members of the animal kingdom, allowing unambiguous identification of a large proportion of animal species in studies that have examined a wide range of taxonomic groups.

    A large-scale initiative to identify ant species utilizing COI sequences has been launched by the Biodiversity Institute of Ontario (BIO) at the University of Guelph, and the California Academy of Sciences (CAS) in San Francisco. In order to develop this approach to the identification of ants, a COI barcode reference library must first be established from expertly identified specimens. Once a COI barcode is linked with a named species, query sequences from unidentified specimens can be compared with the reference barcode and identifications are generated based on the result. This initiative has been initiated with programs to identify all ant species in North America as well as generating a database for all invasive (or tramp) ant species globally.

    Because there are more than 12,000 species of ant worldwide, no single researcher or institute can carry out this project. However, the task can be completed through an international collaboration involving museum collections and curators, ant ecologists, and ant systematists. Our goal is that all collaborators will benefit from the results of this project - barcode sequences will advance our understanding of ant biology by discovering cryptic species, revealing cases of oversplitting, aiding the description of new species, associating life stages, tracing dispersion histories, and ultimately through the creation of a system for the identification of any life stage of any species.

    As part of the "Ant Barcode of Life" campaign, this website serves as a communication platform for myrmecologists, researchers of other domains, amateurs, and all people who are fascinated by these amazing animals. Through this website, one is able to oversee the progress of the barcoding projects and benefit from the reference barcodes that have been deposited in the BOLD systems.

    The "Ant Barcode of Life" campaign will be divided into smaller, manageable projects. Depending on the needs of individual campaign participants, ant barcoding projects can be organized based on taxonomy (e.g., world Pheidol), geographic regions (e.g., Ants of North America), or collections (either of a museum or a specific collaborator). Here are a few examples:

    Campaign participants can create and manage their own projects on BOLD. As part of the world campaign, the individual project is automatically integrated to the global project and its progress is reported on this website. Project managers can analyze their data using web-based tools provided by BOLD. They have controls on the distribution of data and how and when to publish the projects.

    The campaign coordinator is responsible for coordinating projects created by campaign participants from various regions of the world. As the campaign coordinator automatically has access to all ant barcoding projects that are members of the campaign, he/she has the privilege and responsibility to analyze barcode data collected from broader geographic regions and/or on larger taxonomic scales. This allows him/her to communicate with individual project managers and facilitates his/her ability to point out findings such as genetic divergence of species with wide geographic distributions, potential cryptic species, life-stage associations. Sequence data are kept confidential between project managers, project participants, and the campaign coordinator. Project managers maintain authorship to their own data.

    The Ant Barcode of Life campaign is being coordinated at the Biodiversity Institute of Ontario (BIO), University of Guelph, Canada and the California Academy of Sciences. The costs for DNA analysis incurred by the campaign are supported by grants towards the International Barcode of Life (iBOL) initiative (