A new guide published by the Global Biodiversity Information Facility (GBIF) provides detailed advice for those working with zoological names in digital environments.
The publication, Guidelines for the Capture and Management of Digital Zoological Names Information, aims to promote consistency in the spelling and formats used for animal species and genera, to avoid costly and time-consuming subsequent efforts to link datasets referring to the same species.
The advice provided in the manual is based on the International Code of Zoological Nomenclature (ICZN) and experience gathered over the years by AnimalBase, a project set up in 2004 by the University of Göttingen in Germany to digitize early zoological literature. It complements the substantial documentation already made available by ICZN on the issue of taxonomic names.
In his introduction to the guide, author Francisco W. Welter-Schultes writes, “Electronic systems are highly character-sensitive. If only one of the four components deviates in only one character, database providers will inevitably be confronted with an increase of costs for the usually manual or semiautomatic work necessary to connect data sets belonging to the same species. A computer programme cannot automatically connect a name for a gastropod species Helix aspersa Müller 1774 in one database with another name Helix aspersa O. F. Müller 1774 in another database.”
Colin Groves, Professor of Biological Anthropology at the Australian National University in Canberra, Australia, and an expert reviewer of the publication remarked, “There is so much misunderstanding about zoological nomenclature, yet it is absolutely essential for communication in biology. This document aims to explain what nomenclature is, why it is so necessary, what the rules are, and why they exist, and it is full of well-described examples of how-to and how-not-to. Some of these ‘how not to’ examples lace the document with a humour which their authors did not intend, and provide some nice examples of how nomenclature has been misused even by would-be practitioners.”
The manual is targeted both at those interested in using names as a backbone to digital systems, and those whose focus is working with taxonomic information.
Guidelines for the Capture and Management of Digital Zoological Names Information is available at http://www.gbif.org/orc/?doc_id=2784.
For more information please contact:
Alberto González Talaván
Relevant links from ICZN:
- Publications - http://iczn.org/content/publications
- Education and outreach - http://iczn.org/education_outreach
- Guidelines on the use of scientific names of animals for authors and editors - http://iczn.org/content/guidelines-use-scientific-names-animals-authors-and-editors