Name for the standard

Richard Pyle deepreef at BISHOPMUSEUM.ORG
Tue Sep 16 18:32:28 CEST 2003

> you are right, in part.  Although the SDD activity is undertaken by
> taxonomists, it extends beyond the core of taxonomy and nomenclature to
> delineation and description of the objects themselves (taxa mostly, to a
> lesser extent specimens).

This is the part I'm having trouble understanding.  What is being
"Described" are characters....correct?  While it is true that researchers
have traditionally used character descriptions as a "short-hand" attempt to
delineate taxonomic concepts; the bottom line is that characters are
intrinsically part of actual living, breathing (respirating) physical
beings -- not the concepts (represented by names) that are intended to
circumscribe a set of individual organisms deemed to belong to a common
taxon.  When a taxonomist describes a character in the context of a taxon
concept, what is really being asserted is that the character as described is
shared by the primary type specimen of the name used to represent the
concept, as well as the primary type specimens of any/all names deemed to be
synonymous, as well as a wide swath of other individual organisms, a tiny
fraction of which have been collected and curated in Museums; the vast
majority of which live out their lives in their natural environment. In my
mind, characters belong to individual organisms -- to associate them
directly with taxon concepts (by way of the implied existence of individual
organisms that share the character) is merely a short-hand convenience.

Maybe this is getting off track, but my basic point is that if "SDD" is to
be qualified in any way, I think it should be qualified in terms of general
biology, or biological objects; not necessarily taxonomy.

> we we may be getting into the philosophical realm here...

Dear God, no!.... :-)

> Our Rainforest
> Key project actually scored recorded individual specimens for each
> taxon...  most DELTA and LUCID implementations amalgamate and
> abstract this
> to the level of taxon or taxon concept and score at this level...
> of course, SDD should ideally handle both approaches...

I agree...but in my optimized view of the data management world, I'd like to
see characters linked with taxa via implied (if not real) specimens, even if
no specific physical specimen can be cited.  But if this is getting too
philosophical for the issue at hand, I'll gladly step back to my previous
status of quiet observer, so as not to clutter the list with tangential

> >Ultimately, this is about a Standard for Structured Data to Describe
> >Biological Objects -- isn't it?
> I think that is what we are talking about...  you could leave out
> 'structured data' too and it will still make sense...

(Standard for Description of Biological Objects)

(Description of Biological Objects Markup Language)

(Biological Object Description Markup Language)

None very sexy, though...


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