[Taxacom] Species Pages - purpose

Roderic Page r.page at bio.gla.ac.uk
Wed Feb 4 10:45:50 CST 2009

My sense of this thread is that some people are arguing that "species  
pages" would be time consuming to create, aren't much good for  
taxonomists (to quote Mike Dallwitz "In brief, to make simplified and  
attractive information about taxa easily available to casual users?"),  
and nobody gets credit for making them. In short, "they're not for me,  
I don't get credit for making them, so why bother?"

Others (e.g., Doug Yanega) see species pages -- properly constructed  
-- to be a research tool. If we extend this to its logical conclusion,  
we could envisage these pages being the primary source of information  
on taxa. Indeed, new taxa could be described in this way. In short,  
"this is the future of taxonomic publication".

One obvious way to realise species pages sensu Doug is using a wiki,  
but then there are those that horrified by the prospect of just  
"anyone" being able to edit that content. In short, "wikis are not for  
serious people, the ignorant might mess up my stuff". Others have had  
a more positive experience.

I realise this doesn't do justice to these positions, but this make  
things a little concrete, I've put together a demo based on a wiki I'm  
constructing. The aim of this wiki is to link together taxonomic  
names, specimens, images, classifications, publications, phylogeny,  
people in one place. It's a bit like a wiki version of my Elsevier  
Challenge entry http://iphylo.org/~rpage/challenge/www/ .

This is some way off being ready for prime time, but I thought it  
might be useful to show the sort of thing that can be done.

As a starting point, /itaxon.org/wikidev/Chromis_circumaurea is a page  
about Chromis circumaurea, one of the fish Rich Pyle et al recently  
described in Zootaxa. This page contains a map and some specimen  
images, and an abbreviated description copied from the Zootaxa  
article. The images and the map are generated automaticaly by the  
wiki, based on the links it has to the specimens, e.g.


The USNM specimen is linked to a GenBank sequence http://itaxon.org/wikidev/EU358583 
  . Specimens themselves are linked to Museum collections (using data  
from http://biocol.org ).

The name itself is linked to a publication


which is also linked to the authors. The wiki supports GUIDs, so that  
you can link to the page about Chromis circumaurea using it's ZooBank  
LSID, for example: http://itaxon.org/wikidev/Urn:lsid:zoobank.org:act:8ADC4817-8F1C-4C88-8B8A-5372A84CAEC9

What I hope this crude example demonstrates is a framework where we  
can support all the kinds of objects we care about, and easily create  
links between them that can generate useful information. For example,  
the page for Chromis circumaurea doesn't explicitly list the images  
shown, they are there because of the links between Chromis  
circumaurea, the specimens, and the images of those specimens. The  
same applies to the map. What this means is that very little  
information needs be entered, it's mostly a matter of joining the dots.

Note that these wiki pages already have more information than either  
iSpecies (http://ispecies.org/?q=Chromis+circumaurea ) or EOL (http://www.eol.org/pages/209986 

This example has been assembled by hand, but much of the data required  
can be entered automatically (e.g., for sequences, specimens,  
publications, etc.), and tools such as text mining or XML markup  
(e.g., TaxonX) could be easily exploited. I also realise that the  
demos as it stands as very limited information about the organism  
itself, but I don't this this as intractable.

If we could build things like this (and I believe we can, with a lot  
less effort than might be thought), is this the kind of "species page"  
that would be useful?



PS If you're curious about the ideas behind this wiki, you'l find some  
background at http://iphylo.blogspot.com/search?q=wiki

Roderic Page
Professor of Taxonomy
Graham Kerr Building
University of Glasgow
Glasgow G12 8QQ, UK

Email: r.page at bio.gla.ac.uk
Tel: +44 141 330 4778
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Home page: http://taxonomy.zoology.gla.ac.uk/rod/rod.html

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