Taxon codons

Gail E. Kampmeier gkamp at UIUC.EDU
Sun Oct 24 11:20:24 CDT 1999

>Gail, I once considered using species codons due to database space
>limitations.  However, with the large drives of today's computers, we
>decided not to sacrifice the understandability of using the complete name.
>So far we are only inputting collections from our state, and we have a
>checklist of WV Flora for reference.  It is linked in our Foxpro program so
>that the data technician can not enter any misspelled name.  If species
>names link to other data tables in a relational system each usually has a
>unique key of a few numbers or digits (often meaningless); but, this can be
>set up so the "codons" are transparent to use.
>Donna I. Ford-Werntz     West Virginia Univ.
>Herbarium Curator (WVA)  Box 6057
>Asst. Prof. Biol.        Morgantown, WV 26506
>425 Brooks Hall          (304)293-5201 X2549
>email: diford at    fax: (304)293-6363
>Web site at

We use unique 4-letter codens (based on Arnett, et al.'s Insect & Spider
Collections of the World) that represent the full information (complete
name, institution, contacts, address, etc.) about a museum/collection in a
relational FileMaker Pro database (museums.fp3 in Mandala) and it reduces
typing errors and time.  If you want to see the entire name, it's easy to
show that field once the coden is entered (and we do show it)--no real
sacrifice. You are right that numbers are often meaningless and certainly
much more difficult to remember unless used routinely.  These codens are
more easily remembered in my experience.

We have always numbered taxa, however, because of problems with homonyms.
To reduce the "pain" of having to remember numbers, I have buttons
(scripts) that copy the number once the desired taxonomic name has been
located in "names.fp3" and either paste or hold for pasting that number in
the appropriate field in a related datafile.  At one time I had thought
that we could just type in the genus at least, but even this was fraught
with potential errors because of homonyms.  Now we use numbers to represent
the genera that we link to species, and once the number is entered, I show
the genus name AND authority so that the user is sure the correct link has
been made.

Gail E. Kampmeier, Research Entomologist, Illinois Natural History Survey,
Box 5 NSRL-EASB, MC-637, 1101 W. Peabody, Urbana, IL 61801 USA
ph. 217-333-2824; fax 217-333-6784; email: gkamp at

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