Numeric taxonomic code of NODC

Barry Roth barryr at UCMP1.BERKELEY.EDU
Tue Jul 5 09:53:44 CDT 1994

In Message Tue, 5 Jul 1994 17:01:35 +1200,
  Geoff Read <read_g at KOSMOS.WCC.GOVT.NZ> writes:

>The USA National Oceanographic Data Center (NODC) taxonomic code was an
>attempt to (as they said in 1984[*]) "adapt the Linnean system to modern
>methods of data storage and retrieval." NODC then required the use of the
>code in all marine biological data it accepted for processing. The code
>used a basic 10 digit format so that 50 was an annelid, 5001 a polychaete,
>500123 family Syllidae, 50012303 genus Syllis, and the last two digits
>allowed 99 species per genus. A few further symbols allowed refinements
>such as cross-referencing to synonyms. NODC maintained the listings.
>Is this an historical relic or would anyone advocate continuing such a
>system today? Regardless of the species-level being too limiting it might
>have a utility down to family or genus perhaps? Is it still in use at NODC
>or elsewhere?


To the extent that the position of a number in the string imputes formal
categoric rank (family, subfamily, genus, etc.), that system will have a
problem representing rank-free taxonomy -- i.e., that which departs from the
convention that every species must be assigned to a taxon at each and every
formal level.  (For critiques see, e.g, Farris, 1976, Syst. Zool. 25:271-282
and de Queiroz & Gauthier, 1992, Annu. Rev. Ecol. Syst. 23:449-480.)  The
system is redundant and ambiguous in that the sole species of a monotypic
"family" can be represented by three different strings of numbers -- one six
digits, one eight digits, and one ten digits long.

 Barry Roth                Museum of Paleontology
 University of California, Berkeley, CA 94720 USA
 barryr at     Ph. (415) 387-8758

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