Document Type

Article

Publication Date

1-1-2014

Publication Title

Zookeys

ISSN

1313-2989

Issue

420

First Page

117

Last Page

135

DOI

https://dx.doi.org/10.3897/zookeys.420.7089

Abstract

Scientific names of biological entities offer an imperfect resolution of the concepts that they are intended to represent. Often they are labels applied to entities ranging from entire populations to individual specimens representing those populations, even though such names only unambiguously identify the type specimen to which they were originally attached. Thus the real-life referents of names are constantly changing as biological circumscriptions are redefined and thereby alter the sets of individuals bearing those names. This problem is compounded by other characteristics of names that make them ambiguous identifiers of biological concepts, including emendations, homonymy and synonymy. Taxonomic concepts have been proposed as a way to address issues related to scientific names, but they have yet to receive broad recognition or implementation. Some efforts have been made towards building systems that address these issues by cataloguing and organizing taxonomic concepts, but most are still in conceptual or proof-of-concept stage. We present the on-line database Avibase as one possible approach to organizing taxonomic concepts. Avibase has been successfully used to describe and organize 844,000 species-level and 705,000 subspecies-level taxonomic concepts across every major bird taxonomic checklist of the last 125 years. The use of taxonomic concepts in place of scientific names, coupled with efficient resolution services, is a major step toward addressing some of the main deficiencies in the current practices of scientific name dissemination and use.

Comments

Publication of this article was funded by the University of Colorado Boulder Libraries Open Access Fund.

This article was originally published in Zookeys.

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