unique numbers for species

Richard Pyle deepreef at BISHOPMUSEUM.ORG
Thu Oct 11 09:54:07 CDT 2001

> Why numbers? Why not just use the "the unique identifier" which
> already exists: the original published name with author and year.

I already touched on this earlier.

> (Of course, internally a database can number
> these identifiers and use only these numbers as internal references).

Yes, exactly.

> This system needs no additional registration than what already is
> implicit by publication.

Well, the purpose of the registration would be to ensure that different
databases used the same internal reference numbers for the same taxon name,
and thus allow easy transfer of data among the different databases. I
already outlined one of the many potential problems of trying to map
multi-part textual data across databases ("Smith & Jones", "Smith and
Jones", etc.). Moreover, Name+Author+Year+Page doesn't always cut it, as you
point out:

> I have seen only one or two cases where this system would produce same
> identifier (Linnaeus had same combination name used twice in same
> work for different species). But, I would think this is so rare
> occurrence, that they won't confuse anything.

To a computer, one exception is all that's needed to destroy an otherwise
elegant system.

Since we're talking about expanding the practical effectiveness of computers
as tools to help us do our work more efficiently and effectively, we should
be thinking in terms of what makes sense to a computer, rather than what
makes sense to a human.


Richard L. Pyle
Ichthyology, Bishop Museum
1525 Bernice St., Honolulu, HI 96817
Ph: (808)848-4115, Fax: (808)847-8252
email: deepreef at bishopmuseum.org
"The views expressed are the author's, and not necessarily those of Bishop

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