An AI to classify insect species before they go extinct

Insect populations are declining all over the world. As time seems short, German researchers have developed an AI-based system capable of quickly classifying as-yet-unknown species of insects.

An AI that compares insects

According to many specialists, the living would be at the heart of a sixth mass extinction synonymous with: rapid loss of biodiversity. Scientists around the world are trying as best they can to classify the many animal species that have yet to be discovered. Between 9 million and 1 billion animal species are still unknown, including 90% insects and other invertebrates.

In a study prepublished in bioRxiv on May 18, 2021, researchers from the Institute for Automation and Applied Computing ofInstitute of Automation and Applied Informatics of the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (Germany) presented a system that help classify species of insects. This is the DiversityScanner, a form of artificial intelligence based on machine learning.

The system collects data over time to show that it is capable of producing new ones. The principle is simple, based on the equation of the legs, antennae and other features of the specimens already mentioned. After capturing images of insects, the AI ​​will code them before relaying its findings to scientists and explaining which parts of the body caught its attention.

IA insect classification
Credits: Karlsruhe Institute of Technology

A real race against the clock

The insect monsters then go be put in order ADN then label. According to the project managers, there is a “DNA barcode” that should be associated with images of insects, with the aim of feeding an online catalog. For researchers, DiversityScanner would be an effective way to discover and study new species. AI can also be very relevant where people struggleie at the level of the “dark taxa”. These are mainly groups of very little studied invertebrates whose degree of diversity still remains a mystery. It must be said that this type of insect is special difficult to describe and identifyas it requires careful dissection to highlight differences from other species.

DiversityScanner will also be used to separate known species from unknown ones. This will thus make it possible to ensure the unknown nature of certain species to be studied and classified. Not dwelling on species that are already on the list can therefore save precious time in the actual context. So this AI will arrive on time, because time is running out. According to a 2017 German study, insects are declining faster than previously thought. The results indicate that insect populations reduced by a third in ten years a decrease in Germany, the main cause of which is said to be the intensification of land use.