[Taxacom] Chameleons, GBIF, and the Red List

Michael Heads m.j.heads at gmail.com
Sun Aug 24 16:36:38 CDT 2014

GBIF provides excellent information for Europe, North America, South Africa
and Australasia, but those areas are very well-known anyway. Outside those
areas, other sources are often much more useful than GBIF. For
distributions, birds are the best-known group. I chose a very well-known,
widespread bird at random: the owl Asio otus. There is an excellent map at
the IUCN site:


In contrast, the one at GBIF is very misleading for areas outside Europe
and the US:


The GBIF map has NO records north of a line Moscow - Lake Baikal, so a huge
area of the bird's range isn't covered at all. In fact GBIF handles most
Russian groups very poorly indeed, although it's supposed to deal with
'global' biodiversity information and Russia is the largest country in the

Every year or so I check Papilionidae on GBIF to see any improvement:


Note the usual iron curtain effect, but also the Canada/US border! In
Africa, the borders of DR Congo are clearly visible, presumably because
Belgian records are incorporated while French and English ones are not..

On Mon, Aug 25, 2014 at 6:12 AM, Richard Pyle <deepreef at bishopmuseum.org>

> > Nor can one reasonably complain because dead taxonomists (or even
> > taxonomists that have moved on to other activities) failed to provide the
> > level of documentation required to reliably identify specimens according
> to a
> > taxonomic treatment not available when they collected/annotated
> > specimens and/or failed to provide the geographic detail that is now
> feasible.
> EXACTLY!!  We're not arguing about databases here -- we're arguing about
> the realities of information, or lack thereof.  You can't blame a a
> database for not including information that doesn't exist, and you can't
> blame a taxonomist for not documenting something that he/her doesn't know,
> or could not possibly have known.
> > So folks, the glass is filling up - at least for the kinds of
> > organisms deposited in herbaria.
> Ditto!
> Aloha,
> Rich
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Dunedin, New Zealand.

My recent books:

*Molecular panbiogeography of the tropics.* 2012. University of California
Press, Berkeley. www.ucpress.edu/book.php?isbn=9780520271968

*Biogeography of Australasia:  A molecular analysis*. 2014. Cambridge
University Press, Cambridge. www.cambridge.org/9781107041028

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