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MX, short for matrix, is essentially a custom systematics database built to be accessible over The Internet. There are also a few features available to facilitate offline work, be it on a computer or plain paper. The following provides a brief overview of a typical work-session that is focused on coding a matrix.

To start, visit the login page (Fig. 3) to logon with your given username and password.
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Fig. 3. Login screen.

Choose project: This overview uses a project on Chalcidoid Morphology (Heraty Lab) (Fig. 4). Once you have chosen your project you will find that everything is organized into categories. These are available through a row of tabs at the top of the page (Fig. 5). I will first introduce the ones that are of more direct importance for our project.
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Fig. 4. Chose a project.
  • Everything centers around the OTUs (Fig. 5), or Operational Taxonomic Units, which can be either described or undescribed species, represent a particular specimen or even a unique user’s interpretation of a single specimen. If you like, this could also be a way to represent a higher level taxon, such as the ground-plan of a family.
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Fig. 5. Tabs and OTUs.
  • When you create a new OTU you can assign it to a Taxon name (Fig. 6) at some level of hierarchy. If it is an undescribed species in an undescribed genus you can simply say it is a species belonging to a select subfamily if that is the level you feel confident of. If the species is already described you need to make sure that the taxon name is already entered — same goes for any name, but everything from subfamily and up is already in there. If you add new names you'll likely want to reference a current source for those names, for example John Noyes’ [Universal Chalcidoidea Database]. If not, make sure you are basing your entries on well documented sources.
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Fig. 6. Taxon names.
  • Characters (Fig. 2) currently contains a list of characters that is the result of further work on the list that came out of the Workshop in Riverside 2005. The list is fully editable and you can also add and delete characters here.
  • Each character is defined by a number of states, a character description and any number of figures for both states and the character in general. Characters can be assigned to groups for more convenient access to data. You access these groupings through the Character groups link on top of the page in figure 2. You can also show the whole list sorted by group through the List by character group link to the top of the page. The Ontology is basically a way to maintain a list of morphological terms with definitions, synonyms, preferred usage, etc. To build a matrix (Fig. 7) you just give it a name and then add to it a set of OTUs and a set of characters.
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Fig. 7. Matrices.
  • From the matrix you can now code the characters for the OTUs. There are several ways to do this - either by clicking a cell in the matrix or by one-click coding; one-click you can use to code one OTU for all characters or, vice versa, one character for all OTUs. Once you are done coding you have the option of exporting to either NEXUS or TNT format so you can analyse the data.
  • When you are working in MX you can often find some extra help by clicking the help link located in the upper right-hand corner. As you can see, there are also the categories Content, Material, DNA, Refs, Associations and Keys available. Additional guides for these tabs will be created in the future.

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