Information sources

Information used in the factsheets comes from both published and unpublished sources.  Citations are used to show the source of information. Citations may be shown in the text of the factsheet and the tag names for undescribed species. However, in general the sources of information used are shown in the section 'Sources of information'.

Citation conventions: text of factsheet

Where the information is based on unpublished information, this is acknowledged by giving the person's name, including initials, and the year the information was provided; e.g. NA Martin 1999.

Where the information is published, scientific-journal-type formats are used, with the author(s) name and the year of publication; e.g. Other 2003 or Martin & Other 2004. Note that the author initials are not used in citations of published information. Full details of where an item was published can be found in the section 'Information used'.


Names used for invertebrates and plants

A plant or animal can have several names: a scientific name, a common or vernacular name, or a Māori name. Where there is no scientific name, they may have an informal tag name.

Scientific names

Scientific names are given to plants and animals that have been formally described in the scientific literature.

The scientific names used in the factsheets are those in the Manaaki Whenua – Landcare Research taxonomic databases and made available via the Biota of New Zealand  website.  The factsheets may contain some scientific names of plants that are not in the Ngā Tipu o Aotearoa – New Zealand Plants Database. These are either plant species that do not occur in New Zealand or are cultivated plants that were not included in Ngā Tipu o Aotearoa when the factsheet was written. The factsheets also include names of insects and mites that are not in Ko te Aitanga Pepeke o Aotearoa – New Zealand Land Invertebrates. These include species that are not in New Zealand and names for undescribed taxa.

Sometimes the scientific name of a species changes as a result of new information. The old scientific name is called a synonym.

Common or vernacular names

Common or vernacular names are used in the factsheets. Where possible, existing common names are used, otherwise an appropriate name has been created. Sometimes an existing common name can refer to more than one species. Conversely a species can have more than one common name, in which case they are listed as synonyms under 'other names'. Vernacular names for plants are listed in the Biota of New Zealand.

Māori names

Māori names are given either as the common name or as a synonym. Sometimes a Māori name can refer to more than one species of organism. Sometimes a species can have more than one Māori name, in which case they are listed as synonyms under 'Other names'. Māori names for plants are listed in Biota of New Zealand.

Tag names

Some plants and animals that are recognised as belonging to distinct species have not received a formal description. Tag names are used so that information about the species can be referred to in publications and databases. Two forms of tag names are used in the Plant-SyNZ database and may be used in the insect factsheets.

Genus known, species undescribed. Where the genus is known, the format is Genus sp. 'tag name' (Author year).  For the leaf-mining fly reared from Hydrocotyle species the format is Liriomyza sp. 'hydrocotyle' (Spencer 1976); and for the leaf-mining fly reared from Melicytus alpinaLiriomyza sp. 'Melicytus alpina' of Martin 2000.

Genus unknown, species undescribed. Where the genus is unknown and the species undescribed, two conventions have been followed. The first is as follows: Gen. nov. 'tag name' sp. 'tag name' of author year; e.g. Gen. nov. 'Greenthrips' sp. 'Hunua' of Martin 2009.

The second convention is used mainly for species of gall-forming insects and mites, where a longer description of gall type is useful and biologically meaningful. The following examples illustrate the concept. Coprosma small bud gall sp. 'areolata' of Martin 1999, Coprosma shoot tip gall sp. 'areolata' of Martin 2001; Olearia small leaf blister gall sp. 'albida' of Martin 2005.


Scientific names: an explanation

The scientific name for a species consists of two parts: a generic name and a specific epithet. The generic name always starts with a capital letter, while the specific epithet is never capitalised even if it is based on the name of a place or person. The scientific name is always italicised or underlined, e.g. Thrips obscuratus or Thrips obscuratus.

The scientific name may be followed by the name of the person(s) who originally described the species. The person's (author's) name is never italicised or underlined. If, after the original description, the species is moved to a different genus, the original author's name is enclosed by brackets; e.g. Thrips obscuratus (Crawford). For plants the convention is that when a species is moved to a different genus, the name of the person who makes the change is also added; e.g. Ranunculus membranifolius (Kirk) Garnock-Jones. Animal names can also include the year when a species was originally described, e.g. Thrips obscuratus (Crawford, 1941).

In addition to the basic scientific name, there are various additional subdivisions. For example, a genus may be divided into two or more subgenera. The subgenus name is inserted between the generic name and the specific epithet. Species themselves can also be subdivided. These subdivisions can include, subspecies (ssp. or subsp.), varieties (var.), forms (f.), and cultivars (cv.).

A species is a human concept for biological entities. Over time ideas about the definition of a species and its relationship to other species may change, hence the movement of species to other genera, or, if two 'species' are later believed to be the same, the joining (synonymising) of the two names. When this happens, the oldest name is retained.

In order to provide a reference for each species, type specimens are designated. The most important are the holotype, which is a single specimen selected and designated at the time of the original description, and the paratypes, which are any specimens from the original series of specimens from which a description was prepared.

Ecological function and ecosystem services

The ecological function and ecosystem services of pollinators are obvious from the name of this group of organisms. Pathogens, parasites, parasitoids, and predators are thought to regulate the numbers of other organisms, such as herbivores​​​​​​​, and of preventing extreme fluctuations in numbers and severe damage to their plant hosts most of the time.

Herbivores can be regarded as converting plant tissue into animal protein that is more suitable as food for other organisms. The beneficiaries of this include insect-eating birds and lizards. It is noteworthy that some mainly herbivorous birds switch to insect eating when they are feeding their young. A second benefit from insects and mites feeding on plants is that they contribute to an increase in the productivity of the ecosystem by increasing the rate of nutrient recycling by making plant nutrients available through their excreta and dead bodies.

Uncertain identifications

Sometimes a specimen can only be identified to a genus. In the factsheets it will be named as Genus sp.; e.g. Pittosporum sp. or Liriomyza sp.

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