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About this Site

This site provides an overview of the fascinating and diverse Australian ant fauna. It includes information on all genera and many of the species known to occur on mainland Australia, Tasmania and nearby islands. Illustrated keys, featuring a minimum of technical language, are provided to assist with the identification of all subfamilies and genera and selected species. Each subfamily includes information on its biology, identification, world-wide distribution and the number of total and Australian genera. Each genus includes a description of the characters used to identify it and to separate it from similar genera, illustrations showing its overall appearance ("habitus"), an overview of the biology of the genus, a catalogue of described species, a summary of publications dealing with the genus, and a map showing locations where the genus has been found.

The information for species is more variable. In some cases full details are provided, much as for genera. In other cases only a minimal amount of information is included, sometimes little more than its name and original publication details. This variability reflects the current uneven nature of our understanding of the species of Australian ants.

The terminology used throughout this site has been kept as simple as possible and a glossary explaining terms used is included. While the language has been simplified, the characters used are the same as those found in major taxonomic works on ants. Thus this site provides an introduction to the terms and morphological characters found in traditional taxonomic papers. Hopefully this will make traditional taxonomic works more understandable and accessible.

Sources of Information
The information on this site is derived from four main sources.

Australian Ants, Their Biology and Identification by Steve Shattuck and published in 1999 (see CSIRO Publishing. Information for the introductory pages, subfamilies and genera are derived largely from this publication.

Bob Taylor's 1985 Zoological Catalogue of Australia volume (see CSIRO Publishing) together with its 1999 electronic update by Steve Shattuck (see ABRS's ABIF-Fauna). These sources provide the basic checklist and nomenclatural details for species.

The published scientific literature. Much of the information concerning species can only be found in the primary scientific literature. A wide range of publications have been examined and their rich and diverse information assembled and summarised.

The results of original, unpublished research undertaken within the Australian National Insect Collection and other major collections world-wide. This information relates mainly to species and includes details on both taxonomy and biology.

Nomenclatural Acts
Nomenclature is the process of naming species and other taxa. It can be a complicated activity. For example, the same name may be used for unrelated taxa (homonomy) and different names used for the same taxon (synonymy). There can also be confusion as to whether a name has been published in the scientific literature or is a casual or informal name used outside of science (the availability of a name).

A set of rules have been developed to regulate taxon names and provide nomenclatoral guidance. These roles are published as the International Code of Zoological Nomenclature, or simply The Code. The taxonomic community adheres very closely to the Code and taxonomic works which do not follow the Code are rejected and ignored.

How does the Code impact on this (and other) web sites? The most important area is in what the Code considers a "publication." According to the Code, only nomenclatoral acts which are "published" are recognised, others are invalid. Currently, the Code requires that, in essence, numerous identical copies be simultaneously available. This is meant to restrict "publications" to paper-based journals, books and the like, and CD-ROMs in some circumstances (although in practice the taxonomic community has made minimal use of CD-ROMs). The Code makes it quite clear that web sites, and similar electronic publications and databases, are not publications. That means that new species cannot be described on web sites. And neither can new synonymies, new replacement names, changes in rank (for example, raising a subspecies to a full species) and any number of other important nomenclatoral acts.

Because of the restrictions currently imposed by the Code, new taxa will not be described on this web site. However, we have chosen to ignore the Code in other, selected cases. For example, recognised and as-yet unpublished synonymies will be included, as will changes in rank where justified, especially raising subspecies to full species rank. In addition, taxa may be removed from synonymy and reinstated as valid taxa. These changes will only be made where strong justification exists and paper-based publications could be (or are being) prepared. We are fully aware that these changes are unavailable under the Code and may be "properly" published elsewhere as a result of the work reported here. However, we believe that there are cases where disseminating accurate taxonomic information is more important than being a slave to the Code.

Monograph or Encyclopaedia?
Traditionally, the results of taxonomic research are presented in monographs, large publications which present essentially all that is known about a group of animals. These monographs are often the result of years of work and generally have a life-span of many years (that is, once monographed the group is not revisited for some time). Unfortunately, this is not a particularly good model of how taxonomic and biological information is discovered. In most cases this information changes constantly as new species are discovered and existing species examined in further detail. Ideally monographs should be modified as this new information becomes available. In a paper-based world this is essentially impossible and is rarely done.

Enter the world of electronic encyclopaedias. Encyclopaedias, especially electronic ones, are updated constantly as information changes and have major releases on a regular basis. This is identical to the way taxonomic and biological information changes. This site follows this model rather than that of the traditional monograph with information regularly updated to reflect our current understanding of the Australian ant fauna. The Web (essentially a large, dispersed electronic publication) makes this technically and economically possible and marks the beginning of the end for traditional, niche-market, low-volume publishing, publishing which is all too common in many scientific fields.

Funding and Support
Core funding for this project has been provided by the following agencies. This project would not have been possible without their support.
CSIRO logo
  CSIRO has provided core funding for all aspects of this activity.
Department of the Environment, Water, Heritage and the Arts logo
  Australian Biological Resources Study, a program within the Department of the Environment, Water, Heritage and the Arts, has funded numerous projects which have provided the content for this site.
NSF logo
  US National Science Foundation has provided funding for numerous projects across the Australian fauna.

The following staff have been instrumental in developing the ANIC Taxon Database and this web site. 

  Steve Shattuck - System design and management, software development and documentation.
  Natalie Barnett - Database management, system design and data quality.
  David Baird - System design and software engineering.

And finally, we would like to thank the many generous individuals who have collected and donated specimens, images and biological notes which form an essential part of the ANIC Database. They are too numerous to mention here, but they have our sincere thanks.


Web site by Steve Shattuck and Natalie Barnett, © Copyright 2005-2015 CSIRO Australia.
Use and information subject to our Legal Notice and Disclaimer. Problem? Contact webmaster.
Please cite this page as: CSIRO, 2015. Ants Down Under, viewed 03 June 2015, <http://anic.ento.csiro.au/ants>.