Taxaonomic database structure

Melissa C. Winans mcwinans at MAIL.UTEXAS.EDU
Fri Aug 29 14:52:37 CDT 1997

At 11:02 AM 08/29/1997 -0500, Jim Bennett wrote:
>I would like to ask the readership how they deal with binomials and
trinomials in their taxonomic databases. Up till now I have entered the
entire binomial or trinomial in one field, with separate fields for family
and genus. I do not have a field for just the species name or infraspecies
name. I have been going through the literature on database structure but
this particular point is rarely addressed. In some more advanced databases
it appears that each taxonomic rank is made into a separate record with a
field for what the rank is. I don't need this level of sophistication for
my databases, so am looking for a middle ground structure. Any thoughts on
this would be most appreciated.

In addition to the taxonomic and functional points already mentioned,
another point to consider is the effect of one versus many data fields on
the overall size of the database.  There are two points to consider here:

1. Given two fields (for example, Genus and Species) with entries of
varying length, you will always save some space, both in the table and in
the associated index, by concatenating them into a single field.  Your
mileage will vary with the nature of your data.

2. In the specific case that Jim mentions of binomials and trinomials,
another consideration is how many entries in the table will actually have
more than just a species name.  If only a small number do, then the space
allocated for the extra field will be pretty much wasted.

Melissa C. Winans, Collection Manager (mcwinans at
Vertebrate Paleontology Laboratory      Phone: 512-471-6087
J.J. Pickle Research Campus               Fax: 512-471-5973
University of Texas, 10100 Burnet Road, Austin, TX 78758-4445

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