Facebook friends help scientists quickly identify nearly 5,000 fish specimens collected in Guyana

Last month, a team of ichthyologists sponsored by the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History performed the first survey of the fish diversity in the Cuyuni River of Guyana. Upon their return, they needed to identify the more than 5,000 specimens they had collected in less than a week’s time in order to obtain an export permit. Faced with insufficient time and inadequate library resources to tackle the problem on their own, they instead posted a catalog of specimen images to Facebook and turned to their network of colleagues for help.Hypostomus taphorni (a brown spotted fish) from Guyana

Image right: A fish identified as Hypostomus taphorni, from the Guyana expedition.

In less than 24 hours, this approach identified approximately 90 percent of the posted specimens to at least the level of genus, revealed the presence of at least two likely undescribed species, indicated two new records for Guyana and generated several loan requests. The majority of people commenting held a Ph.D. in ichthyology or a related field, and hailed from a great diversity of countries including the United States, Canada, France, Switzerland, Colombia, Peru, Venezuela, Guyana and Brazil.

By quickly tapping the collective expertise of their social network to help with the preliminary identification process, the expedition members were able to sort, pack and export the specimens to Washington, D.C. in a timely manner. The Facebook identifications also will speed the cataloging process and help make the material available for loan and study as quickly as possible.Guianacara cuyunii, a fish from Guyana

Image left: A fish identified as Guianacara cuyunii from the Guyana expedition.

Such crowdsourcing of identifications would not have been possible five years ago, but increased internet access across South America and the massive recent growth of social networks has made tapping the world’s collective knowledge easier than ever. Based on this experience, Facebook offers a remarkably efficient free tool that can accelerate taxonomic identification substantially. –Brian Sidlauskas, ichthyologist Oregon State University, expedition leader and research collaborator of  Richard Vari, National Museum of Natural History, Department of Vertebrate Zoology. The expedition mentioned in this article was funded by the Natural Museum of Natural History Biological Diversity of the Guiana Shield Program and the Department of Vertebrate Zoology.

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  • http://9lol.com Matt

    Wow facebook today is great

  • Valini Kirton

    the top fish is known as a smoke hassar or smoked armored catfish
    the secon is either a patwa or a kataback

    • Annetta

      The top fish is actually a Hypostomus plecostomus. I have one in my fresh water fish tank and it eats algae.

    • Annetta

      The second fish is an African Cichlid. They are fresh water and are mouth brooders.

  • Jeremy

    This is terrifically amazing. Who knew that being so connected could have some many uses?

  • http://faceboook Maria Santos

    Dados quantitativos relevantes ,seria alguma ajuda filosófica a ciencia?
    ;)

  • Franco

    yay

  • http://www.great-grape.com Jeevaka

    Facebook made the “global village” a more closer and an accessible place. As it redefined social networking experience, it also gave the ability to put the public “input” via the facebook apps. there are ome negative aspects for this too. Yet facebook is just a tool. Just like a knife. Its we “the users” who take the advantage of it. So the result of the things we do depends on how we handle our tool. Zynga is a good example for that. ;)

  • Durga Prasad

    i HAVE SEEN BOTH THESE FISHES……THE UPPER ONE A VARIETY OF CAT FISH…HAVE IT IN MY AQUARIUM…. N THE LOWER ONE…IS SIMILAR TO A FISH MY FRIEND GIFTED ME…FOR MY AQUARIUM……

  • Rupna Chowdhury

    I like this. I am also studied in Zoology about fish. Thanks.

  • Rupna Chowdhury

    I want to work about this with you. But how ? What is the procedure ?

  • http://www.crowdsourcing.org Tonya Van Dijk

    If only, the Internet existed much earlier, more and more discoveries and insights would be derived. But it’s never too late. With Internet access and social media, the public can solve a lot of mysteries. They can share a lot of information already as fast as the speed of lightning!

    This is another proof that crowd science has reached greater heights, http://www.crowdsourcing.org/l/525.

  • http://egeybtcayro ebrahim maarof

    good and wandefol