DIGITIZED SYSTEMATICS: NEW PARADIGMS IN IMAGING, DATA SEARCHING, AND PUBLICATION TRANSFORM PALEONTOLOGICAL TAXONOMY
The rapid growth of digital imaging technology, including cameras, macro lenses, and focusing rails, and a decline in their cost has fueled a radical shift in systematic data gathering and presentation, making it possible to generate and publish large volumes of exceptionally high quality images with modest effort. Researching systematic literature has been virtually trivialized by digitization of all relevant publications. Our research group has developed a =searchable collection of all published trilobite papers, using existing digitization initiatives (e.g., Biodiversity Heritage Library) and digitizing ourselves where necessary. Search technologies built into standard desktop operating systems permit the entire literature library to be searched for terms of interest (e.g., genus name) in less than a second, with a set of all papers containing the term returned as pdf files. Utilizing these data, we have recognized misidentified taxa, unknown morphological details, and a vast diversity of unrecorded taxa. As a result, fossil taxa may now be documented in incredible detail, and their history of investigation summarized virtually on demand. Many journals are now willing to publish greatly expanded imaging, limited only by the effort and judgment of the investigator. While these changes offer transformative advances in the speed, depth, and quality with which fossil species can be documented, they have yet to be widely adopted by systematists.