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Insect Morphometry is Reproducible Under Average Investigation Standards
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  • Sandor Csosz,
  • Bernhard Seifert,
  • Istvan Mikó,
  • Brendon Boudinot,
  • Marek Borowiec,
  • Brian Fisher,
  • Matthew Prebus,
  • Jayanthi Puniamoorthy,
  • Jean Claude Rakotonirina,
  • Nicole Rasoamanana,
  • Roland Schultz,
  • Carolyn Trietsch,
  • Jonah Ulmer,
  • Zoltán Elek
Sandor Csosz
MTA
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Bernhard Seifert
Senckenberg Museum of Natural History Görlitz
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Istvan Mikó
University of New Hampshire Department of Biological Sciences
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Brendon Boudinot
University of California Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology
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Marek Borowiec
University of Idaho
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Brian Fisher
California Academy of Sciences
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Matthew Prebus
University of Idaho
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Jayanthi Puniamoorthy
National University of Singapore
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Jean Claude Rakotonirina
Madagascar Biodiversity Center
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Nicole Rasoamanana
Madagascar Biodiversity Center
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Roland Schultz
Senckenberg Museum of Natural History Görlitz
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Carolyn Trietsch
Pennsylvania State University University Park
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Jonah Ulmer
Staatliches Museum für Naturkunde Stuttgart
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Zoltán Elek
MTA-ELTE-MTM, Ecology Research Group
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Abstract

Morphometric research is being applied to a growing number and variety of organisms. Discoveries achieved via morphometric approaches are often considered highly transferable, in contrast to the tacit and idiosyncratic interpretation of discrete character states. The reliability of morphometric workflows in insect systematics has never been a subject of focused research, but such studies are sorely needed. In this paper, we assess the reproducibility of morphometric studies of ants where the mode of data collection is a shared routine. We compared datasets generated by eleven independent gaugers, i.e. collaborators, who measured 21 continuous morphometric traits on the same pool of individuals according to the same protocol. The gaugers possessed a wide range of morphometric skills, had varying expertise among insect groups, and differed in their facility with measuring equipment. We used Intraclass correlation coefficients (ICC) to calculate repeatability and reproducibility values (i.e., intra-, and inter-gauger agreements), and we performed a multivariate Permutational Multivariate Analysis of Variance (PERMANOVA) using the Morosita index of dissimilarity with 9999 iterations. The calculated average measure of intraclass correlation coefficients of different gaugers ranged from R = 0.784 to R = 0.9897 and a significant correlation was found between the repeatability and the morphometric skills of gaugers (p = 0.016). There was no significant association with the magnification of the equipment in the case of these rather small ants. The inter-gauger agreement, i.e. the reproducibility, varied between R=0.872 and R=0.471 (mean R=0.690), but all gaugers arrived at the same two-species conclusion. A PERMANOVA test revealed no significant gauger effect on species identity (R2 =0.69, p=0.58). Our findings show that morphometric studies are reproducible when observers follow the standard protocol; hence, morphometric findings are widely transferable, and will remain a valuable data source for alpha taxonomy.

Peer review status:POSTED

27 Aug 2020Submitted to Ecology and Evolution
27 Aug 2020Assigned to Editor
27 Aug 2020Submission Checks Completed