Checking names

Acronyms. In many cases they are helpful for the topic they might cover. But IRMNG? Perhaps a new institution? No for that we just have GRBio – Global Registry of Biological Repositories (www.grbio.org), “offering the community a single, integrated and comprehensive information resource on taxonomic collections. GRBio is a merger of Index Herbariorum (IH), Biodiversity Collections Index (BCI) and biorepositories.org and contains more than 14,000 records for biorepository institutions, their collections, and staff members. All the data, web services and capabilities that were offered by these three database portals have been incorporated into GRBio”. Well, if you’re linked to an institution, you might wish to check their record.But again, IRMNG? Never heard of it, but appears to be a relatively new addition to the so-called ‘taxonomic infrastructure’; it stands for Interim Register of Marine and Nonmarine Genera.

The IRMNG (http://www.obis.org.au/irmng/) “is a provisional compilation of genus names (plus species in many cases) covering both living and extinct biota into a single system to support taxonomic and other queries. Taxonomic names in IRMNG are arranged into a single “management hierarchy” and are assigned flags to distinguish between marine vs. nonmarine, and extant vs. fossil, status, thus providing a filtering capability for systems such as OBIS and others to discriminate records on that basis. For a subset of IRMNG names, taxonomic status is also held i.e. whether or not a name is a known synonym of another name in the system. Fuzzy matching is also supported (using “Taxamatch”) so that a misspelled name can in most instances be reconciled to a correctly held name at genus or species rank, where this is held. As at July 2013, IRMNG contains over 469,000 genus names (out of perhaps 500,000 ever published) and over 1.9 million species names (of perhaps 5 million+ published combinations), plus over 21,000 family names, from all taxonomic groups (i.e. animals, plants, fungi, protists, bacteria, archaea and viruses)”.

Just did a test drive of this Australian initiative with some arbitrarily chosen (well, not entirely) examples, with intentionally made typos. Some mixed but still interesting results.

First it has to be noted that any database is as good as the quality of its content (remind the ‘garbage in-garbage out’ a.k.a. GIGO principle). Currently IRMNG heavily borrows from e.g. the 2006(!) version of the Catalogue of Life. It is no surprise to see that several families are not ‘up-to-date’ and most genera don’t have species associated with them. The fuzzy search that can spot typos only works at higher taxonomic levels. Yet, if you need some names to be quickly checked (the site also allows input of multiple items) this database can be a helpful, but “provisional”, tool.

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One thought on “Checking names

  1. Tony Rees

    Hi Bram – thanks for taking the time to check out my IRMNG database and web site. I started this project in 2006 which explains the fact that many of the species names still come from that version of the Catalogue of Life, maybe to be updated next year (touch wood) – mean time I have been working mainly on the genera portion of the database although there are additional species from WoRMS (“all” marine species) and some other sources including Joel Hallan’s Biology Catalog – so if the group of interest is covered by those you would have more success at species level in particular.

    FYI the fuzzy match facility does operate at species as well as genus level but only when the desired species are held, which as you have found is not necessarily the case for all groups at this time.

    Basically the intention with IRMNG was – and still is – to fill as many as possible of the gaps in other compilations e.g. Cat. of Life at least to genus level, also including fossil genera, so that someone with an “unknown” species name (e.g. in a database record or museum label) can use IRMNG to get at least some information from the genus portion of the name (including whether or not it may be a misspelling). Hopefully over time the content with respect to nonmarine mollusc species will be improved to match that for their marine cousins, which is currently fairly complete (at least for extant taxa) courtesy of WoRMS at this time.

    Regards – Tony Rees, Australia

    Reply

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