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  Naming standards
From: Todd Ruth <truth at weber.ucsd.edu> on 1997.01.02 at 21:59:24(34)
I know no one likes numbers for names, but as a software engineer I
have to ask.... Is there an international standard for numeric
designations for species? I'm hoping there is a cdrom set out there
somewhere that is just a huge list of:

74567862347845 additional

where the first column is a unique identifier down to the cultivar/
subspecies level and the second is the current "official" name (or
at least some cdrom distributors opinion of the "official" name).
There would be a table included indicating that 1 means Plantae (or
whatever is at the top of the tree; my biology education stopped at
high school (and is continuing again on the net :) )), 1.2 means
Plantae Whateverae, etc. The third column would be subspecies/cultivar
name. (The only reason for numbers in the second column rather
than using the Latin directly is space conservation in the table.
(and if you leave the groupings alone but decide you simply must
change a name, you can make the change in the table rather than

This would be great! I could track of all of my plants in my
database using the unique id, and display/print the information
using whatever the latest name craze happened to be. I'd use the
number on all tags and keep a lookup sheet handy with translations
to the current names for the ids I happen to use. Actually,
I'd probably use the number "dash" another number indicating
the genetic instance so I could tell which were clones. For
the species where there is a list of clones it would be good
to have the clone number built into the unique id.

All this depends on a central naming database however. Does one
exist? If not, do any of the taxonamists know of an effort to
get one going? Blocks of IDs could be assigned to organizations;
if they run out, more would be assigned. IAS seems like a good
choice for the aroids. IAS could be the keeper of the unique
ids for members of the family Aracae. If a plant was moved out
of Aracae, no problem! Some other group now owns that id. If
two plants are decided to be the same, no problem: the second
and third columns would be the same for both numbers. If a plant
changes names, the second and/or third column would change (but
not the database of an individual grower). Thousands of hybrids
could get unique ids even though the second column is the same
for all of them. Would a 32 bit number be sufficient? (allowing
ids 0 - 4294967295) or would a 64 bit number be needed (allowing
ids 0 - 18446744073709551615)? If the latter were the case,
I think I'd need "local" unique ids to keep me from going crazy
making out the labels, but then again, that's only 20 characters
at the worst - maybe it's not too bad.

Anyway, the advantages to such a system seem great to
this member - any other ideas for insulating amateurs from the
perils of taxonomical changes?

If there is not currently a system in place, and there is support
for forming one, let's hash out what would work for people and
I'd be glad to help put some code together to help maintain such
a system. I'd be doing it for myself anyway! :)

- Todd Ruth

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