Web key helps researchers identify mammals

Institute of Chicago for drawings of whales.

Giving back to the world

The new key identifies about 170 mammals to the level of genus, but Stanley plans to extend that to the level of species. "If this model works, it could be a good way to increase access to and the usefulness of our collections of plants and animals from other countries," he says. "This is a good way for us to give something back to the world."

Stanley focused on Tanzania because he has been studying mammals there for years. The country is rich in biodiversity, especially the Eastern Arc Mountains. Formed millions of years ago, these mountains contain some of the most biologically diverse and endemically rich montane ecosystems in all of Africa. They have been referred to as the "Galapagos Islands of Africa."

Throughout the world, scientists have only identified a small percentage of all species that are thought to exist. It is vitally important to identify and classify all plants and animals to improve our understanding of life on earth, especially since many species are threatened with extinction. This project is one of the first steps in creating a new generation of tools that will help researchers even those with little training to identify local fauna, Stanley says. "We expect that it will also generate interest in Tanzanian mammals and hook future scientists on studying mammals."


Contact: Greg Borzo
Field Museum

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