Taxonomic index, anyone?

Alan Harvey aharvey at AMNH.ORG
Sat Feb 22 16:18:52 CST 1997

>Compared to the molecular biology community databases available on the
>Internet now, a complete taxonomic index would be inconsequential in
>terms of either size or complexity.  If we could agree on a format for
>submission of data, and someone would provide surplus disk space on an
>Internet host, we'd be in business.
>I am not a taxonomist.  Nonetheless, I would be delighted to have a
>place to deposit the taxonomic details that I gather in the course of
>my work, that I must keep track of for my own reference, but that I
>cannot or do not want to "publish".  And I would also be delighted to
>have access to similar valuable information gathered by others.
>We all want a complete taxonomic index of the literature for whatever
>group we are *currently working on*.  If we start archiving this data
>as we go, we would eventually have a complete taxonomic index, and in
>the meantime we would all have an increasingly valuable research tool.
>        Una Smith
>        Department of Biology
>        Yale University
>        New Haven, CT  06520-8104

Although I suspect the first sentence of this posting rather underestimates
the problem, I do think that a taxonomic index, or series of authority
files, is an idea whose time has come. As curator of a rather large and
diverse collection of invertebrates, I am daily frustrated by the daunting
task of simply matching species names, authors and dates, much less
determining whether a particular name is valid, and if not, what the
current name is, much less trying to identify uncertain material.

Consider, for starters, a simple database, perhaps including the following
fields: genus, species, higher taxon link (perhaps only need family in this
record, given a second DB that contains classification information for each
family), author, date (or combine author and date into a single citation
field), event (e.g., new taxon, new combination, etc.), status (e.g., valid
or synonym, or better yet a link to current name), person who provided this
record to the database. There are of course many other pieces of
information we might want to know about each taxon; with the caveat that
every field added will slow the rate at which records can be accumulated,
what else would be deemed critical for this starter database?




Alan W. Harvey (aharvey at
Assistant Curator of Invertebrates
American Museum of Natural History
Central Park West at 79th Street
New York, NY 10024
(212) 769-5638; fax (212) 769-5783

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