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Updated 23 February 2012

New and Old Worlds

Database of fossil mammals

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Data Conventions
Species At Localities
Taxonomic Fields
Taxonomic Examples
Well-defined taxa
Indeterminate taxa
Informal species
Uncertain taxonomic assignment
Description of Species
Description of Localities
Data Entry Practices

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As a guideline NOW uses the taxonomy of McKenna & Bell's Classification of Mammals Above the Species Level, except for Muridae for which we use McKenna & Bell's classification with the modifications suggested by Hans de Bruijn.


Proper use of Taxonomic Fields

The primary assumption is that species already exist in the database, so before creating a new species entry, always check whether the species is in the database already! If this is the case, please follow the instructions under Species at Localities for how to add the species to your desired location. However, if the species in question really is missing from the database, for example it is a recently established species, from an area previously not included in the database, or an informal species, please follow the taxonomic conventions outlined below.


Class The Linnean class to which the species belongs:  Mammalia.
Order

The Linnean order to which the species belongs.

Family

The Linnean family to which the species belongs.

  • incertae sedis when the family of the genus is not known
  • indet. when nothing but the order for this taxon is known
  • when there are any uncertainties in assignment of the family for this genus, enter 'family attrib of genus uncertain' in the taxonomic status field
  • If the family is not known at data entry (a relatively common occurrence) the value Findout may be used. These species can be listed and updated later.
  • if there are any uncertainties in the family identification at a particular locality, enter 'family id uncertain' in the ID status field, genus and species should be indet.
Tribe or Subfamily

The Linnean subfamily or tribe to which the species belongs.

  • use the most meaningful rank between family and genus for the family in question
  • leave blank when tribes/subfamilies are not commonly used for the family in question
  • Enter Findout if tribes/subfamilies are commonly used for the family but it is not known to you
  • Enter indet. if a tribes/subfamilies are commonly used for this family but cannot be assigned for this taxon
  • leave blank when nothing but the order or family for this taxon is known
Genus

The generic name of the species.

  • indet. when the genus of the species cannot be assigned
    (when genus is indet., species must also be indet.)
  • gen. when the "species" belongs to a distinct but unnamed genus
    (when genus is gen., species should usually be sp.)
  • when there are any uncertainties in assignment of the genus for this species, enter 'genus attrib of species uncertain' in the taxonomic status field
  • if there are any uncertainties in the genus identification at a particular locality, enter 'genus id uncertain' in the ID status field, species should be indet.
Species The species epithet of the species.
  • indet. when the species of the taxon cannot be assigned (NOTE: indeterminate taxa are often referred to as 'sp.' in the literature but you should use 'indet.' for them in NOW)
  • sp. when the 'species' represents a distinct but unnamed species - when species is sp., the unique identifier must be completed
  • if there are any uncertainties in the species identification at a particular locality, enter 'species id uncertain' in the ID status field
Unique Makes the species entry unique.
  • usually left blank (automatically filled with '-')
  • mandatory when sp. in the species field: to indicate new, unnamed species, use 'nov. Locality' , or 'nov. Author', or simply 'Locality'
    (Note: NEVER enter the names of new, unpublished taxa, as this will invalidate the name)
  • subspecies name if absolutely necessary (avoid using subspecies where possible or enter into the 'Additional Info' field when adding the species into a location). Subspecies can often be considered as actual species by different authors – for example Canis palmidens appears in literature also as Canis chicliensis palmidens – so it is good to also check whether the genus in question already has the same subspecies name as a species level entry in the database.
  • may also be used to create informal subdivisions ('small', 'large') of taxa
  • Avoid using meaningless distinctions such as 1, 2 or A, B in the unique field, unless following a Locality name even if thus given in the literature
Taxonomic Status A taxonomic qualifier common to all occurrences of this taxon. Usually the taxonomic status is blank.

Valid entries are:

  • family attrib of genus uncertain
  • genus attrib of species uncertain
  • informal species
  • species validity uncertain
  • taxonomic validity uncertain

'Species validity uncertain' is used for taxa that belong to a specific genus but have an uncertain standing as separate species (often due to lack of knowledge). 'Taxonomic validity uncertain' indicates taxa that are most likely invalid, nomina dubia, listed only in very old literature, or chimeras but still persist in literature sources as listed species.

Taxonomic Comment
Synonym

Taxonomic Examples

Below are a number of hypothetical examples as a guide to correct usage of the taxonomic fields in NOW.

  • Well-defined taxa

Order Family Subfamily Genus Species Unique

Situation: well-defined taxonomic unit
Carnivora Amphicyonidae Amphicyoninae Amphicyon major -

Situation: the family of genus Simocyon is not known
Carnivora incertae sedis - Simocyon primigiensis -

Situation: a widely accepted subspecies
Carnivora Felidae Felinae Lynx lynx lynx

NOTE: In most cases, it is preferred that you enter subspecies names into the 'Additional Info' field within Localities > Species information tab instead of creating a new species entry.

  • Indeterminate taxa

NOTE: indeterminate taxa are often referred to as 'sp.' in the literature.

Order Family Subfamily Genus Species Unique

Situation: indeterminate carnivore
Carnivora indet. - indet. indet. -

Situation: family Amphicyonidae, but nothing further is known
Carnivora Amphicyonidae - indet. indet. -

Situation: subfamily Amphicyoninae, genus and species unknown
Carnivora Amphicyonidae Amphicyoninae indet. indet. -

Situation: this material represents tribe Bovini, genus and species unknown
Artiodactyla Bovidae Bovini indet. indet. -

Situation: cannot be assigned at the species level e.g. insufficient fossil material
May appear in literature as: Amphicyon sp., Amphicyon indet.
Carnivora Amphicyonidae Amphicyoninae Amphicyon indet. -

Situation: material from genus Lynx, a small form but species unknown
May appear in literature as: Lynx indet. small, Lynx (small form)
Carnivora Felidae Felinae Lynx indet. small

  • Informal species

NOTE: Informal species may be novel species, or distinct but unnamed taxa from a particular locality. They are identified by 'sp.' in the species field, and an identifier in the unique field, usually the Locality name. Many taxa are listed as 'Genus sp.' in the literature, but unless they refer to a distinct species, they should be entered in NOW as indeterminate taxa, 'Genus indet.'.

Family Subfamily Genus Species Unique Taxonomic Status

Situation: a novel species within Amphicyon from locality Pasalar
May appear in literature as: Amphicyon sp. nov., Amphicyon nov.
Amphicyonidae Amphicyoninae Amphicyon sp. Pasalar informal species
Amphicyonidae Amphicyoninae Amphicyon sp. nov. Pasalar informal species

Situation: a novel species in probably a novel genus from locality Candir
Amphicyonidae - gen. sp. Candir informal species

Situation: a novel species within Lynx from locality Stockholm
May appear in literature as: Lynx sp.1
Felidae Felinae Lynx sp. Stockholm 1 informal species

Situation: a novel species, named but UNPUBLISHED
May appear in literature as: Lynx newname sp. nov.
Felidae Felinae Lynx sp. Werdelin new informal species

Situation: a novel species, named and PUBLISHED
May appear in literature as: Lynx newname sp. nov
Felidae Felinae Lynx newname - -

  • Uncertain taxonomic assignment

Family Subfamily Genus Species Unique Taxonomic Status

Situation: species steinheimensis may not belong to the genus Amphicyon
May appear in literature as: cf. Amphicyon steinheimensis, ?Amphicyon steinheimensis, "Amphicyon" steinheimensis
Amphicyonidae Amphicyoninae Amphicyon steinheimensis - genus attrib of species uncertain

Situation: genus Hecubides may not belong to the family Amohycionidae
May appear in literature as: cf. Amohycionidae Hecubides macrodon
Amohycionidae - Hecubides macrodon - family attrib of genus uncertain

Situation: taxonomic validity of Lynx fennicus is uncertain
Felidae Felinae Lynx fennicus - taxonomic validity uncertain

NOTE: In a few recognised cases, two similar but separate species may not be possible to tell apart (e.g. can tell them apart if skull material is present, but not just from the teeth). Where the taxon is thus indeterminate but limited to two known species, and this is a regular occurrence, the species may be entered into NOW as a new species entry (in less common cases, please see examples under 'Species at Localities')

Family Genus Species Unique Taxonomic Status

Situation: It is often impossible to tell whether Stephanorhinus etruscus or Stephanorhinus hundheimensis is present
May appear in literature as: Stephanorhinus etruscus/hundsheimensis or Stephanorhinus hundsheimensis/etruscus
Rhinocerotidae Stephanorhinus etruscus/hundsheimensis - -

Links to:

Species at Localities

Notes on description of species

Notes on description of localities

Data entry practices


Reference:

McKenna, M.C. & Bell, S.K. 2000. Classification of Mammals Above the Species Level. i-xii, 1-631. Columbia University Press.