iTaxoTools 0.1 : Kickstarting a specimen-based software toolkit for taxonomists
While powerful and user-friendly software suites exist for phylogenetics, and an impressive cybertaxomic infrastructure of online species databases has been set up in the past two decades, software targeted explicitly at facilitating alpha-taxonomic work, i.e., delimiting and diagnosing species, is still in its infancy. Here we present a project to develop a bioinformatic toolkit for taxonomy, based on open-source Python code, including tools focusing on species delimitation and diagnosis and centered around specimen identifiers. At the core of iTaxoTools is user-friendliness, with numerous autocorrect options for data files and with intuitive graphical user interfaces. Assembled standalone executables for all tools or a suite of tools with a launcher window will be distributed for Windows, Linux, and Mac OS systems, and in the future also implemented on a web server. The initial version (iTaxoTools 0.1) distributed with this paper (https://github.com/iTaxoTools/iTaxoTools-Executables) contains graphical user interface (GUI) versions of six species delimitation programs (ABGD, ASAP, DELINEATE, GMYC, PTP, tr2) and a simple threshold-clustering delimitation tool. There are also new Python implementations of existing algorithms, including tools to compute pairwise DNA distances, ultrametric time trees based on non-parametric rate smoothing, species-diagnostic nucleotide positions, and standard morphometric analyses. Other utilities convert among different formats of molecular sequences, geographical coordinates, and units; merge, split and prune sequence files, tables and species partition files; and perform simple statistical tests. As a future perspective, we envisage iTaxoTools to become part of a bioinformatic pipeline for next-generation taxonomy that accelerates the inventory of life while maintaining high-quality species hypotheses. The open source code and binaries of all tools are available from Github (https://github.com/iTaxoTools) and further information from the website (http://itaxotools.org).