[Taxacom] Species Pages - where are the online descriptions?

Heike Vibrans heike_texcoco at yahoo.com.mx
Sun Feb 1 09:37:07 CST 2009

And, of course, most information is in English, which
leaves most of the world's population outside.

However, the basic problem, in my opinion, is the one
Mary mentioned: severe limitations on wo/man-hours of
people who are in a position, capable and willing to
produce more or less reliable content, not only

There are four main factors, in my opinion:

- lack of time/trained people
- lack of interest of trained people, also because
this type of work is almost useless for academic
evaluations, on which many people rely for income, and
may even be detrimental to reputations. Here in
Mexico, half and more of the income of most academics
depends on, basically, journal papers and graduated
- lack of funding for the generation of new content
(for example, vouchered photographs of living plants)
"this is not science".
- lack of peer review and quality control (but then
again - who is going to do that?).

Some regions of the world have capable amateurs who
can and do fill some of the gaps, but this is
generally not the case in the most diverse regions,
especially the tropics.

That said, for the Spanish-language Weeds of Mexico
(http://www.malezasdemexico.net) website we try to
include all relevant information in a synthetic form,
both taxonomic and other (biogeography, uses, ecology,
etc., though much is still incomplete) - the fact
sheets have species descriptions and a section on how
to distinguish the particular species from the most
similar species, sometimes with illustrations.
Examples of species that most people know are at:
We don't have keys yet, only comparative tables of
flowers, but they are necessary eventually, of course.

I hope to complete the 3000 Mexican weeds perhaps in
my lifetime ... (I have 850 until now), but it is very
slow going, though I dedicate a very significant part
of my time to it, in detriment of other activities. 

I keep hoping for a kind of decentralized network
where everybody works on what they know and are
interested in. Kind of a Wikipedia with restricted
access to editing and a common purpose. I know there
are several initiatives out there, but they have not
yet resolved a basic problem I mentioned above.
Apparently there is much more money around to build
the programming infrastructure (or are there just more
people who can do this?)

And, Roger, a good place to start looking for websites
with species pages is the TDWG database of
"Biodiversity Information Projects of the World":
Projects are classified as Data Providers or Data

Regards to all,


> I am looking for websites that have good "Species
> Pages". By species  
> page I mean (and this is my definition) a page that
> contains a  
> description of the species and not a page that
> simply lists the  
> nomenclature associated with the acceptance of a
> name. You could send  
> the URL of a species page to a student who didn't
> know what the  
> organism was and they could use it to confirm the
> identity of a  
> specimen.
> An example of what I think of as a species page is 
> the Fishbase page  
> for Gadus morhua (Atlantic Cod):
> There is a lot of information on this page and a
> description of the  
> organism can be gleaned from it.
> This FloraBase page is another example:
> http://florabase.calm.wa.gov.au/browse/profile/26
> Very brief but attempts to define the taxon.
> Wikipedia has a good page for cod but there isn't a
> good taxon  
> description so it is a borderline species page
> http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gadus_morhua
> Catalogue of Life has a goal of producing a page for
> every species and  
> it aims to do this by combining pre-existing data I
> believe but I  
> wonder where this data is.
> Their page on badger comes from Arkive
> (http://www.arkive.org/) which  
> is an imaging database http://eol.org/pages/328046
> and their page on  
> cod comes from Fishbase http://eol.org/pages/206692
> Pages I don't consider Species Pages are:
> Catalogue of Life has a page that comes from
> Fishbase but that chucks  
> out the "useful" information and only maintains the
> nomenclature.
> The ITIS page is similar to the CoL page
> Likewise Fauna Europaea page for Meles meles
> (Badger) lacks a  
> description because it is a nomenclatural database.
> http://www.faunaeur.org/full_results.php?id=305312
> I'd like to build a list of sites offering "real"
> species page  
> information - with descriptions. At the moment it
> seems like the major  
> source of these pages are electronic versions of the
> literature. We  
> have good descriptions in sources like eFloras.org
>   and I hope BHL will be a source. This is a shame
> as these pages  
> typically lack large numbers of images and the
> possibility of  
> including other media.
> I'd be grateful for any suggestions of sites that
> contain species  
> pages (as per my definition).
> Many thanks,
> Roger
> BTW: I'd rather use the term "Taxon Page" as these
> things could apply  
> at any rank but there seems to be a consensus to
> call them Species  
> Pages no matter what rank they apply to and people
> are typically  
> interested in species.
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Dra. Heike Vibrans Lindemann
Laboratorio de Etnobotánica
Postgrado en Botánica
Campus Montecillo
Colegio de Postgraduados en Ciencias Agrícolas
km 35.5 carr. México-Texcoco
56230 Montecillo
Estado de México, Mexico

Tel. +52 (595) 95 20 200 Ext. 1335
Fax. +52 (595) 95 20 247
Correo electrónico: heike at colpos.mx (trabajo), heike_texcoco at yahoo.com.mx

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