[tdwg-content] Producing a global taxon register (was: ITISTSNID to uBio NamebankIDs mapping)

dipteryx at freeler.nl dipteryx at freeler.nl
Sun Jun 5 17:46:49 CEST 2011

Hi Tony,

keeping in mind the definition of a taxon (a taxon is 
what a taxonomist says it is; a good taxon is what a 
consensus of taxonomists says it is), a taxon register
should hold taxon concepts, which by the nature of things
will be, in part, mutually exclusive. 

A taxon can easily go by half a dozen to a dozen names, 
even without any change in circumscription. On the other
hand a name can easily apply to half a dozen to a dozen 
differently circumscribed taxa. A regular database
is unlikely to be adequate for this.

There are names and there are taxa and there is no, or not
necessarily a, 1:1 relationship between them. Even if one 
had a catalogue of currently accepted taxa, complete with 
currently accepted names, this would not be enough to map
the information from the literature onto. 

If fossils are going to be included, matters will become
much more complicated, probably by an order of magnitude 
(just reading the nomenclature proposals for proposed 
changes in the rules for the naming of plant fossils 
gave me a headache).

As to the GNI, perhaps this was easy to generate, as it 
is an index of name strings present in existing databases, 
but there is no guarantee that all the nomenclaturally 
correct taxon names are present among the name strings, 
and it remains unclear to me what purpose it actually serves.

I continue to pin my hopes on the development of bottom-up
databases, as the most immediately useful sources.


-----Oorspronkelijk bericht-----
Van: Tony.Rees at csiro.au [mailto:Tony.Rees at csiro.au]
Verzonden: zo 5-6-2011 14:18
Aan: dipteryx at freeler.nl; tdwg-content at lists.tdwg.org
Onderwerp: RE: [tdwg-content] Producing a global taxon register (was: ITISTSNID to uBio NamebankIDs mapping)
Good evening Paul, glad to have your input on this topic.

I guess in my thinking the only difference between HCAL and GTR is that the former expicitly incorporates a hierarchy, the latter does not, although maybe you have a different view.

In either case (again to my thinking), the intended unit is that of the taxonomic concept, with both its accepted/valid/current name, and its synonyms (according to some preferred treatment, at least). Of course some concepts are contentious, and others subject to revision through time, but that should not detract from the desirability of the task as a "best effort" representing the state of knowledge at any particular point in time.

Lists of names alone (such as GNI) presently do not go so far as reconciling them to currently accepted concepts, though of course many other taxonomic treatments of either particular taxonomic sectors (as per Catalogue of Life, ITIS, WoRMS and many taxon-specific databases) or regional floras/faunas do so; plus various portions of the palaeontological literature (I am thinking in particular of the numerous volumes of the Treatise on Invertebrate Paleontology here, though not all are recently updated), as well as various more up-to-date reviews and monographs of specific groups.

My interest is in what strategies may be possible to stitich together such activities as are currently in progress as well as fill the gaps between them, preferably in the short term (i.e. my working lifetime!) rather than as an open-ended project with no particular urgency or near term aspiration of completion. One comment I would make is that the Catalogue of Life, at least to date, has concentrated on accessing global species directories (GSDs) which leaves a number of conspicuous gaps at present, whereas for some of the missing groups at least genus-level compendia may be available. Another is the disconnect between databasing projects of extant versus fossil taxa, for which again taxonomic, geographic, and nomenclatural issues know no such bounds.

I would be interested to know more of recent developments e.g. with the 4D4life and i4life initiatives and the extent to which they might accelerate progress towards this goal, although presumbly still without the fossil component at this time; a similar comment would apply to the recently released version one of "The Plant List" although of course it is certainly a noteworthy advance on what was available previously.

(And again, with reference to Rich's recent post, whether any of these initiatives are likely to benefit from planned activities in GN* space).

Of course there are two somewhat separate tasks here: one is keeping up with new names/concepts/treatments and they appear, and the other is to organise and make accessible the legacy information as has been published to date. I susect the strategies (and resources needed) to address these are probaby different but in any case, the ultimate goal should be to merge them into a seamless whole - an "integrated taxonomic information system" no less.

Regards - Tony
From: tdwg-content-bounces at lists.tdwg.org [tdwg-content-bounces at lists.tdwg.org] On Behalf Of dipteryx at freeler.nl [dipteryx at freeler.nl]
Sent: Sunday, 5 June 2011 4:37 PM
To: tdwg-content at lists.tdwg.org
Subject: Re: [tdwg-content] Producing a global taxon register (was: ITIS TSNID to uBio NamebankIDs mapping)

I agree that it is important to have clarity of what the goal
of a project is

* a HCAL - a hierarchical catalogue of all life - is a very popular
type of project; Catalogue of Life, ITIS, NCBI, Wikispecies, etc
all pursue this.

* a GTR - global taxon register - is something else entirely, at least
if the term is taken literally. It would be indispensable if the purpose
"to index all usages of all names in all sources" is to be realized.
I don't know of any project that pursues this in a systematic way
(I suppose the French Wikipedia rates a mention, at least making some

and of course there are projects that focus on names, but at the moment
we still don't have something like a complete nomenclatural index
(inventorying all nomenclatural acts), and are just moving towards
lists of currently accepted names (closely connected to the HCAL).
For information on biodiversity the latter is only marginally relevant,
and the GNI is much less so.

Names and taxa are quite different things and they are interconnected
in a complex way.


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