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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")
sense (botanical - see examples)
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?
    • No - Scott Reynen
      • What do you think would be better? - Andy Mabbett
        • Assuming "sci" is short for "scientific name", I propose "scientific-name".
  • Should "bin", var", "cult", etc., be written in full? (I think not, to save bloating file sizes)
    • Yes - Scott Reynen
  • Should other attribute names be abbreviated for brevity?
    • No, brevity is not one of the naming principles. "bin", "var", and "cult" all leave ambiguous meaning, which is a problem. We should "Use class names based on names from the original schema," e.g. full words or phrases where they aren't especially long. - Scott Reynen
      • Fair enough, though I worry about some of my pages, with tens or hundreds of species listed! Also, note that "var" "sub" and suchlike are the proper abbreviations to use, in botanical nomenclature (see the posted examples). - Andy Mabbett
  • 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:
<span class="bin">Larus glaucoides <span class="sub">kumlieni</span></span>
  • Does "year of authority" need to be an hcal?

Embedding within other microformats

The proosed plant microformat (with care regime, supplier, etc.), hListing draft or hReview 0.4 (in progress) could contain a scientific name microformat, in the same way that an hCal can contain an hCard.


See also