Wikidata:WikiProject Taxonomy/FAQ

A draft FAQ for editing items on taxonomy in WikidataEdit

Q : There is a new taxonomic paper with a new species, how do I add that to Wikidata?

A : The first thing to do is to check if it is already in Wikidata. Put the name of the new species in the "Search Wikidata" field and, at the bottom of the drop down menu, click on the "containing ...". If this produces no results, create a new item for the new name. Click on "Create a new item" in the menu on the left. Copy and paste the new name into the label field. Put "species of [main taxonomic group (insect, mammal, plant, etc)]" in the description field. Under Statements click "add" and put in "taxon name" in the first field, and then copy and paste the new name into the second field. Similarly, add "taxon rank" = "species", "parent taxon" = "[the generic name]" and "instance of" = "taxon". The author and date of the new name can be added as a qualifier to "taxon name", using "taxon author" and "date of taxon name publication". However, this is only possible if the author already has an item in Wikidata. If this is not the case, a new item for the author should be made first. Add the new taxonomic paper as a reference to "parent taxon", after creating a new item for it first. (see here for an example)


Q : How do I make a new item for the latest taxonomic paper?

A : Click on "Create a new item" in the menu on the left. Copy and paste the title of the taxonomic paper into the label field. Put "taxonomic paper" or "scientific paper" in the description field. Under Statements click "add" and put in "title" in the first field, and then copy and paste the title of the taxonomic paper into the second field. Etc. (for an example see here: note that authors can be put in as a string when there is no item for a particular author)


Q : How do I make a new item for an author?

A : Click on "Create a new item" in the menu on the left. Copy and paste the preferred form (that the author uses) of the author into the label field. Put "zoologist", "botanist", "taxonomist" in the description field. Under "also known as" add the preferred standardized form. Under Statements click "add", etc. (for an example see here)


Q : I see that the latest taxonomic paper has changed the name of a species, what do I do?

A : The one thing not to do is to change the "taxon name" in a Wikidata item. If it is a new name, a new Wikidata item should be made for the new name, referencing it to this latest paper (make a new item for this new paper as well). If it is an old name back in fashion, Wikidata may already have an item for it (if this is not the case, make a new item). In all these cases, "taxon synonym" = "name out of fashion" should be added to the item with the name in fashion, referenced with the relevant paper. In the item with the name out of fashion "instance of" "synonym [scientific name])", with the qualifier "of" "name in fashion" can be added, again referenced with the paper (we may make a separate property "is a synonym of" later, but we do not have one yet).


Q : I sometimes see that "A" is marked as being a synonym of "B", while at the same time "B" is marked as being a synonym of "A". What about that?

A : Synonymy is a matter of taxonomic viewpoint. Taxonomy is a science, and a dynamic science, so it is quite possible that some taxonomists regard "A" as being a synonym of "B", while others regard "B" as being a synonym of "A". Preferably any such position should be referenced by a good taxonomic paper. Time and more taxonomic publications will tell.


Q : A genus like Ginkgo has only one species (a unispecific genus, aka "monospecific"), so why has Ginkgo biloba a separate item?

A : How many species are in a genus is a matter of taxonomy. This one taxonomist may regard a genus as having only one species, while the next taxonomist may regard it as having five species. It also depends on if fossil species are counted. There is no point in guessing, and having a separate item works out well in other respects as well. A point of view that a genus has one species only can be included by "instance of" "monotypic taxon", referenced by a good taxonomic paper, like should be done for any taxonomic point of view.


Q : I see a genus of plants and a genus of animals with a name of the same spelling, what do I do?

A : The names of plants and the names of animals are each governed by a different Code of nomenclature. These Codes are independent, so that these names can exist side by side. In Wikidata these are disambiguated by the description.


Q : I see a genus of plants and another genus of plants with a name of the same spelling, what do I do?

A : This is not allowed by the Code of nomenclature in force. At most one of these is correct. The same goes for a genus of fungi, or algae: the names of algae, fungi and plants are governed by the same Code, which does not allow a name of the same spelling for different genera.


Q : In some databases I see things like "Dasypolia (Tschetwerikovia)" to indicate a subgenus, but not in Wikidata?

A : The zoological Code of nomenclature that governs the names of animals has a rule that the name of a subgenus consists of one word (Article 4.1).‎


Q : In Wikidata I sometimes see items with labels like "Gippslandia Stover & Williams (1987) non Bayly & Arnott (1969)". Is this a taxon, or what?

A : This is not a taxon. It is a scientific name, and as such a formal entity, but it is a name that may not be used for a taxon. It means that somebody somewhere made a mistake. Hopefully a taxonomist has taken action to correct it, or will soon. Since it is a formal name, it has a spelling, an author, and date of publication. At present there is no good way to include this: but these may be included as qualifiers: "name", "taxon author", "date of taxon name publication".