Latin diagnoses

James H. Beach jbeach at NSF.GOV
Fri Oct 27 10:19:35 CDT 1995

On Fri, 27 Oct 1995, Nicholas S. Lander wrote:

> Of course a public repository would have to be found for the relevant
> "characters", "specifications", "items" and other data files.  These could
> be accessed by establishing a unique Home Page for each taxon so treated.  I
> think it was Jim Croft (ANBG) who suggested quite some time ago that each
> and every taxon might have its own Internet address.  Perhaps the latter
> could be made the formal (ie scientific) name, and Latin names (or those in
> other languages, dead or alive) would be come rather like colloquial names
> are now.

This comment from the TAXACOM 'Language of Descriptions' thread
intriguingly connects to the few messages we have had on networked-based
publication of new taxa and a network archive for the same. I was
reserving the following idea for happy-hour debates, but Nicholas Lander
in his reference to Jim Croft's suggestion has made it too tempting to
hold back.  So here is some grist for the TAXACOM mill.

Imagine a classification browser, a piece of software that allowed one to
visualize in 2-D or 3-D all taxonomic classifications and all of the
taxa/nodes within them.  It would obviously be dendritic in form and with
hyperlinks from each node to the DELTA data set, or (Latin | Swahili |
Rap) description, or nucleotide sequence, that defined the taxon. The
links might be to a database, to an on-line publication, a WWW page, with
the possibility for video, voice annotation, etc.  One could navigate
around on this tree/graph structure and segments of it would expand or
collapse depending on your level of interest in a particular area.

>From this tree, essentially all networked information about biological
taxa could be hung.  It would be a dynamic structure, automatically
updated nightly (immediately?) by the providers of taxon data, say from
journal editors or some other sort of professional filtering body with the
necessary taxonomic society endorsements and support.  A dynamic,
real-time, tree-of-life would be a powerful organizing metaphor and
navigational structure for taxonomic data, wherever they may sit (on the

If this were accessible in real-time on standard desktop windowing
systems, could taxonomists modify their many practices, work protocols
rules of nomenclature, and taxon abstracting services to manage, query and
link to classifications and taxon data in a completely electronic
environment?  Besides the need to be connected to the net, what would be
the major constraints for using such a system as the single authoritative
index of taxonomic data?  Let's assume it can be built.

Jim Beach

More information about the Taxacom mailing list