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Species Brainstorming

Andy Mabbett


There should, I believe, be a microformat for the markup of plant and animal names, to include their scientific names. Consider:

<abbr class="sci" title="Anas platyrhynchos">Mallard</abbr>


<span class="sci">Anas platyrhynchos</span>

The microformat would allow user agents to be configured to perform look-ups on on-line databases of species, according to user preferences. Specification of the taxonomic class would help user agents to know which such databases were applicable (i.e., use database A for plants, but database B for mammals and database C for insects.)

It would also allow for more specific searching (do I mean "crow" or do I mean "Corvus corone"?).

The specification should encourage, but not mandate, the correct capitalisation of scientific names "Anas platyrhynchos" not "anas platyrhynchos".

A first draft

I'm tending towards this model:

sci (scientific name)
bin ("binomial name")
sub ("subspecies")
var ("variety")
subvar ("subvariety")
cult ("cultivar")
cultgp ("cultivar group")
trade ("trade name")
cross (e.g. "F1")
year (...of authority)
cname ("common name")

where all except "bin" are optional, and it is possible to infer from simply:

<abbr class="bin" title="Anas platyrhynchos">Mallard</abbr>


<span class="bin">Anas platyrhynchos</span>

that the genus is Anas and the species is platyrhynchos (and, thus, "bin" is to "sci"; as "adr" is to "vcard")

Other examples

    <span class="sci">
        <span class="bin">Larus glaucoides</span>
        <span class="sub">kumlieni</span>
  <span class="sci">
    <span class="bin">Pisum sativum</span>
    var. <span class="var">macrocarpon</span> 
    <span class="sci">
        <abbr class="bin" title="Larus thayeri">
            <span class="common">Thayer's Gull</span>
    <span class="sci">
        <abbr class="common" title="Thayer's Gull"> 
            <span class="bin" Larus thayeri</span> 
    <span class="sci"> 
        <abbr class="kingdom" title="Fungi"> 
            <span class="bin">Amanita muscaria</span> 
    <span class="sci"> 
        <span class="bin">Pica pica</span> 
        <span class="authority">Linnaeus</span>, 
        (<span class="year">1758</span>) 
    The species was classified as
    <span class="sci">
        <abbr class="bin" title="Bartramia longicauda">Tringa longicauda</abbr>
        by Johann Bechstein in 1812.


  • Is "sci" the best attribute name for the top-level?
  • Should "bin", var", "cult", etc., be written in full? (I think not, to save bloating file sizes)
  • Should other attribute names be abbreviated for brevity?
  • Is "class" a potentially confusing attribute name, and what should replace it ("taxoclass", perhaps?)
  • What other attribute names are needed, if any (we could do with help from a taxonomist!)
  • How to deal with: "Podiceps sp." (a grebe of unknown species)
  • Should we allow divisions of "bin" with no parent "sci", such as:
Larus glaucoides kumlieni
  • Does "year of authority" need to be an hcal?

Embedding within other microformats

The proosed plant microformat (with care regime, supplier, etc.), hlisting or hReview could contain a scientific name microformat, in the same way that an hCal can contain an hCard.


See also