15F6 Miniature Lives Magnified | Natural History Museum

Miniature Lives Magnified

Aquatic lice (the Echinophthiriidae)

Aquatic lice (the Echinophthiriidae) that are part of the sucking lice family (Siphunculata).

At a glance

Transcribe microscope slide labels.

Type of activity: Online

Who can take part? Adults and students (Key Stage 4+)

When? Any time

How long will it take? Two minutes per slide

About the project

The Mu 1C6A seum is on a mission to digitise the 80 million specimens in its collection. We want to make the information the specimens hold about the natural world more openly available to scientists and the public.

We have imaged more than 70,000 microscope slides of lice from the Museum's collection. We have been asking digital volunteers for the Museum to help transcribe information from the specimen labels so that the data can be used for scientific research.

Lice of the open oceans

We have imaged over 200 aquatic lice (the Echinophthiriidae) that are part of the sucking lice family (Siphunculata).

Few insect species have colonised the open ocean despite their success on land. However, the Echinophthiriidae can be found on Pinnipeds such as sea lions, walruses and seals.

Lice live on the outside of their bird and mammal hosts, and cannot survive for long without them. In fact most individuals spend their entire lifecycle on a single host.

Evolving together

The evolutionary history of lice is closely related to that of their hosts, so they are frequently used as a model to study co-evolutionary processes.

Co-evolution is the process that occurs when two species influence each other during evolution.

Some Pinnipeds can remain at a depth of 1500m for over two hours. This means that lice on these mammals are submitted to massive hydrostatic pressure. Pinnipeds also spend periods of weeks to months submerged in the open ocean meaning that lice need to be able to survive cold temperatures and low oxygen environments.

Where will this data go?

As we process the images and data from the louse collection, it will become available on the Museum's Data Portal for anyone in the world to study.

How can I become a digital volunteer?

1. Visit Lice of the Open Oceans on the Zooniverse platform.

2. Optional) Register as a member of Zooniverse.

3. Follow the instructions to transcribe the data from our microscope slides.

Thank you

To everyone who helped us transcribe the 600+ slides in the Marsupial Lice collection on DigiVol (The Boopidae of Australasia). Once these have been processed, the entire collection will be made publicly available on the Museum's Data Portal.

Project team

  • Margaret Gold, Science Community Coordinator
  • Laurence Livermore, Digital Collections Programme Innovation Project Manager
  • Paul Brown, Curator 
  • Louise Allan, Senior Digitiser
  • Olha Schedrina, Digitiser

About the digital collections programme

In partnership with the Zooniverse, the world’s largest and most popular platform for people-powered research.

Visit the Miniature Lives Magnified: Lice of the open oceans website below.

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