Taxaonomic database structure

Doug Yanega dyanega at MONO.ICB.UFMG.BR
Fri Aug 29 20:32:15 CDT 1997

Norm Johnson wrote:

>Here's another option for encoding taxonomic names (no matter what kingdom
>you're dealing with).  Since we're dealing with a hierarchy, it's possible to
>get by with just a single table.  It needs only have the taxon identifier
>(name, id number, whatever) and the corresponding identifier for its parent.
> Of course, that parent has a parent, on down/up to the most inclusive taxon in
>your database.  We're using Oracle as our RDBMS and it has a nice SQL add-on
>feature that facilitates traversing such hierarchies.

It is, of course, also possible to exploit the relational database
structure and use only a single table for all the bi/tri/quatrinomials
together, though this puts a little bit more of a premium on having a data
entry person who has a good memory. In other words, if species 00001 is
"Xus (Zus) yus yus", species 00002 is "Xus (Zus) yus wus", species 00003 is
"Xus (Zus) yus ssp. undet.", species 00004 is "Xus (Xus) tus tus", and so
forth, then EACH complete taxon name only has to be typed in manually ONE
time in the entire process of creating the database and entering all the
data. ID entry is solely a 5-digit number, then, in the above case.
Ultimately, this saves a LOT of effort, at the tradeoff of having the data
entry person need to look up species numbers for unfamiliar taxa. Of
course, if one is entering data in an organized manner, all specimens of
each taxon should be getting entered together, and no long lookup time is
required. The *program* will then place the appropriate name in a field
whenever one needs to see the actual taxon name while scanning records or
generating reports, with no need for typing it. If any portion of the name
changes, then it only needs to be changed in one place, not every record
(and if it's something like the genus name, then one can always do a global
search/replace, which is hard to avoid even when one has a nested hierarchy
as Norm suggested). As ever, there's more than one way to skin the
proverbial cat.


Doug Yanega    Depto. de Biologia Geral, Instituto de Ciencias Biologicas,
Univ. Fed. de Minas Gerais, Cx.P. 486, 30.161-970 Belo Horizonte, MG   BRAZIL
phone: 031-448-1223, fax: 031-44-5481  (from U.S., prefix 011-55)
  "There are some enterprises in which a careful disorderliness
        is the true method" - Herman Melville, Moby Dick, Chap. 82

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