Integrated Taxonomic Information System

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The Integrated Taxonomic Information System (ITIS) is an American partnership of federal agencies designed to provide consistent and reliable information on the taxonomy of biological species. [1] ITIS was originally formed in 1996 as an interagency group within the US federal government, involving several US federal agencies, and has now become an international body, with Canadian and Mexican government agencies participating. The database draws from a large community of taxonomic experts. Primary content staff are housed at the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History and IT services are provided by a US Geological Survey facility in Denver. The primary focus of ITIS is North American species, but many biological groups exist worldwide and ITIS collaborates with other agencies to increase its global coverage. [2]

Taxonomy (biology) The science of identifying, describing, defining and naming groups of biological organisms

In biology, taxonomy is the science of naming, defining (circumscribing) and classifying groups of biological organisms on the basis of shared characteristics. Organisms are grouped together into taxa and these groups are given a taxonomic rank; groups of a given rank can be aggregated to form a super-group of higher rank, thus creating a taxonomic hierarchy. The principal ranks in modern use are domain, kingdom, phylum, class, order, family, genus, and species. The Swedish botanist Carl Linnaeus is regarded as the founder of the current system of taxonomy, as he developed a system known as Linnaean taxonomy for categorizing organisms and binomial nomenclature for naming organisms.

In biology, a species is the basic unit of classification and a taxonomic rank of an organism, as well as a unit of biodiversity. A species is often defined as the largest group of organisms in which any two individuals of the appropriate sexes or mating types can produce fertile offspring, typically by sexual reproduction. Other ways of defining species include their karyotype, DNA sequence, morphology, behaviour or ecological niche. In addition, paleontologists use the concept of the chronospecies since fossil reproduction cannot be examined.

Federal government of the United States National government of the United States

The federal government of the United States is the national government of the United States, a federal republic in North America, composed of 50 states, a federal district, five major self-governing territories and several island possessions. The federal government is composed of three distinct branches: legislative, executive and judicial, whose powers are vested by the U.S. Constitution in the Congress, the president and the federal courts, respectively. The powers and duties of these branches are further defined by acts of Congress, including the creation of executive departments and courts inferior to the Supreme Court.


Reference database

ITIS provides an automated reference database of scientific and common names for species. As of May 2016, it contains over 839,000 scientific names, synonyms, and common names for terrestrial, marine, and freshwater taxa from all biological kingdoms (animals, plants, fungi, and microbes). While the system does focus on North American species at minimum, it also includes many species not found in North America, especially among birds, fishes, amphibians, mammals, bacteria, many reptiles, several plant groups, and many invertebrate animal groups. [3] [4] Data presented in ITIS are considered public information, and may be freely distributed and copied, though appropriate citation [5] is requested. ITIS is frequently used as the de facto source of taxonomic data in biodiversity informatics projects. [6]

Database organized collection of data

A database is an organized collection of data, generally stored and accessed electronically from a computer system. Where databases are more complex they are often developed using formal design and modeling techniques.

Biodiversity Informatics is the application of informatics techniques to biodiversity information for improved management, presentation, discovery, exploration and analysis. It typically builds on a foundation of taxonomic, biogeographic, or ecological information stored in digital form, which, with the application of modern computer techniques, can yield new ways to view and analyse existing information, as well as predictive models for information that does not yet exist. Biodiversity informatics is a relatively young discipline but has hundreds of practitioners worldwide, including the numerous individuals involved with the design and construction of taxonomic databases. The term "Biodiversity Informatics" is generally used in the broad sense to apply to computerized handling of any biodiversity information; the somewhat broader term "bioinformatics" is often used synonymously with the computerized handling of data in the specialized area of molecular biology.

ITIS couples each scientific name with a stable and unique taxonomic serial number (TSN) as the "common denominator" for accessing information on such issues as invasive species, declining amphibians, migratory birds, fishery stocks, pollinators, agricultural pests, and emerging diseases. It presents the names in a standard classification that contains author, date, distributional, and bibliographic information related to the names. In addition, common names are available through ITIS in the major official languages of the Americas (English, French, Spanish, and Portuguese).

English language West Germanic language

English is a West Germanic language that was first spoken in early medieval England and eventually became a global lingua franca. It is named after the Angles, one of the Germanic tribes that migrated to the area of Great Britain that later took their name, as England. Both names derive from Anglia, a peninsula in the Baltic Sea. The language is closely related to Frisian and Low Saxon, and its vocabulary has been significantly influenced by other Germanic languages, particularly Norse, and to a greater extent by Latin and French.

French language Romance language

French is a Romance language of the Indo-European family. It descended from the Vulgar Latin of the Roman Empire, as did all Romance languages. French evolved from Gallo-Romance, the spoken Latin in Gaul, and more specifically in Northern Gaul. Its closest relatives are the other langues d'oïl—languages historically spoken in northern France and in southern Belgium, which French (Francien) has largely supplanted. French was also influenced by native Celtic languages of Northern Roman Gaul like Gallia Belgica and by the (Germanic) Frankish language of the post-Roman Frankish invaders. Today, owing to France's past overseas expansion, there are numerous French-based creole languages, most notably Haitian Creole. A French-speaking person or nation may be referred to as Francophone in both English and French.

Spanish or Castilian, is a Romance language that originated in the Iberian Peninsula and today has over 450 million native speakers in Spain and the Americas. It is a global language and the world's second-most spoken native language, after Mandarin Chinese.

Catalogue of Life

ITIS and its international partner, Species 2000, cooperate to annually produce the Catalogue of Life, a checklist and index of the world's species. The Catalogue of Life's goal was to complete the global checklist of 1.9 million species by 2011. [7] As of May 2012, the Catalogue of Life has reached 1.4 million species—a major milestone in its quest to complete the first up-to-date comprehensive catalogue of all living organisms. [8] [9]

Species 2000 is a federation of database organizations across the world that compiles the Catalogue of Life, a comprehensive checklist of the world's species, in partnership with the Integrated Taxonomic Information System (ITIS). The creation of Species 2000 was initiated by Frank Bisby and colleagues at the University of Reading in the UK in 1997 and the Catalogue of Life was first published in 2001. While administrators and member organizations of Species 2000 are located across the world, the secretariat is located at the University of Reading.

Catalogue of Life Online database and index of taxa

The Catalogue of Life is an online database that provides the world's most comprehensive and authoritative index of known species of animals, plants, fungi and micro-organisms. It was created in 2001 as a partnership between the global Species 2000 and the American Integrated Taxonomic Information System. The Catalogue interface is available in twelve languages and is used by research scientists, citizen scientists, educators, and policy makers. The Catalogue is also used by the Biodiversity Heritage Library, the Barcode of Life Data System, Encyclopedia of Life, and the Global Biodiversity Information Facility. The Catalogue currently compiles data from 168 peer-reviewed taxonomic databases, that are maintained by specialist institutions around the world. As of 2019, the Catalogue lists 1,837,565 of the world's 2.2m extant species known to taxonomists on the planet at present time.

ITIS and the Catalogue of Life are core to the Encyclopedia of Life initiative announced May 2007. [10] EOL will be built largely on various Creative Commons licenses. [11]

<i>Encyclopedia of Life</i> Free, online collaborative encyclopedia intended to document all living species

The Encyclopedia of Life (EOL) is a free, online collaborative encyclopedia intended to document all of the 1.9 million living species known to science. It is compiled from existing databases and from contributions by experts and non-experts throughout the world. It aims to build one "infinitely expandable" page for each species, including video, sound, images, graphics, as well as text. In addition, the Encyclopedia incorporates content from the Biodiversity Heritage Library, which digitizes millions of pages of printed literature from the world's major natural history libraries. The project was initially backed by a US$50 million funding commitment, led by the MacArthur Foundation and the Sloan Foundation, who provided US$20 million and US$5 million, respectively. The additional US$25 million came from five cornerstone institutions—the Field Museum, Harvard University, the Marine Biological Laboratory, the Missouri Botanical Garden, and the Smithsonian Institution. The project was initially led by Jim Edwards and the development team by David Patterson. Today, participating institutions and individual donors continue to support EOL through financial contributions.

Creative Commons (CC) is an American non-profit organization devoted to expanding the range of creative works available for others to build upon legally and to share. The organization has released several copyright-licenses, known as Creative Commons licenses, free of charge to the public. These licenses allow creators to communicate which rights they reserve and which rights they waive for the benefit of recipients or other creators. An easy-to-understand one-page explanation of rights, with associated visual symbols, explains the specifics of each Creative Commons license. Creative Commons licenses do not replace copyright but are based upon it. They replace individual negotiations for specific rights between copyright owner (licensor) and licensee, which are necessary under an "all rights reserved" copyright management, with a "some rights reserved" management employing standardized licenses for re-use cases where no commercial compensation is sought by the copyright owner. The result is an agile, low-overhead and low-cost copyright-management regime, benefiting both copyright owners and licensees.

Legacy database

Of the ~714,000 (May 2016) scientific names in the current database, approximately 210,000 were inherited from the database formerly maintained by the National Oceanographic Data Center (NODC) of the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). [4] [12] The newer material has been checked to higher standards of taxonomic credibility, and over half of the original material has been checked and improved to the same standard. [4]

The National Oceanographic Data Center (NODC) was one of the national environmental data centers operated by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) of the U.S. Department of Commerce. The main NODC facility was located in Silver Spring, Maryland and was made up of five divisions. The NODC also had field offices collocated with major government or academic oceanographic laboratories in Stennis Space Center, MS; Miami, FL; La Jolla, San Diego, California; Seattle, WA; Austin, Texas; Charleston, South Carolina; Norfolk, Virginia; and Honolulu, Hawaii. In 2015, NODC was merged with the National Climatic Data Center and the National Geophysical Data Center into the National Centers for Environmental Information (NCEI).

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration US government scientific agency

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration is an American scientific agency within the United States Department of Commerce that focuses on the conditions of the oceans, major waterways, and the atmosphere.


Biological taxonomy is not fixed, and opinions about the correct status of taxa at all levels, and their correct placement, are constantly revised as a result of new research. Many aspects of classification remain a matter of scientific judgment. The ITIS database is updated to take account of new research as it becomes available.[ citation needed ]

Records within ITIS include information about how far it has been possible to check and verify them. Its information should be checked against other sources where these are available, and against the primary research scientific literature where possible.

Member agencies

See also

Related Research Articles

A taxonomic database is a database created to hold information related to biological taxa - for example groups of organisms organized by species name or other taxonomic identifier - for efficient data management and information retrieval as required. Today, taxonomic databases are routinely used for the automated construction of biological checklists such as floras and faunas, both for print publication and online; to underpin the operation of web based species information systems; as a part of biological collection management ; as well as providing, in some cases, the taxon management component of broader science or biology information systems. They are also a fundamental contribution to the discipline of biodiversity informatics.

<i>Entylia</i> genus of insects

Entylia is a genus of treehoppers in the family Membracidae. There are at least three described species in Entylia.

<i>Neotibicen davisi</i>

Neotibicen davisi, known generally as the Davis' southeastern dog-day cicada or southern dog-day cicada, is a species of cicada in the family Cicadidae.

<i>Neotibicen lyricen</i> species of insect

Neotibicen lyricen, the lyric cicada, is a species of cicada in the family Cicadidae.

<i>Neotibicen pruinosus</i> species of insect

Neotibicen pruinosus, the scissor grinder, is a species of cicada in the family Cicadidae.

<i>Parancistrocerus fulvipes</i> species of insect

Parancistrocerus fulvipes is a species of stinging wasp in the family Vespidae.

<i>Polyglypta</i> genus of insects

Polyglypta is a genus of treehoppers in the family Membracidae. There are at least three described species in Polyglypta.

<i>Thelia</i> genus of insects

Thelia is a genus of treehoppers in the family Membracidae. There are at least two described species in Thelia.

<i>Tylopelta</i> genus of insects

Tylopelta is a genus of treehoppers in the family Membracidae. There are at least four described species in Tylopelta.

Terelliini tribe of insects

Terelliini is a tribe of fruit flies in the family Tephritidae. There are at least six genera and about 104 described species in Terelliini.

Taliepus is a genus of kelp and spider crabs in the family Epialtidae. There are at least three described species in Taliepus.

<i>Begonia cucullata</i> Species of plant

Begonia cucullata, also known as wax begonia and clubed begonia, is a species of the Begoniaceae family that is native to South American countries of Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay, and Uruguay. A common garden plant and part of the section Begonia, it was described in 1805 by Carl Ludwig Willdenow (1765–1812). The specific epithet "cucullata" means "resembling a hood" or "hooded".

Atelothrus debilis is a species of beetle first discovered in 1917. No sub-species are listed in the Catalogue of Life.

Pterostichus obesulus is a species of beetle first discovered in 1873. No sub-species are listed in the Catalogue of Life.


  1. "ITIS Memorandum of Understanding". Integrated Taxonomic Information System. Retrieved 2008-04-04.
  2. Coote, Lonny D; et al. (February 2008). "Monitoring International Wildlife Trade with Coded Species Data". Conservation Biology. 22 (1): 4–7. doi:10.1111/j.1523-1739.2007.00857.x. PMID   18254847.
  3. "Integrated Taxonomic Information System". Integrated Taxonomic Information System. Archived from the original on 2016-06-06. Retrieved 2016-05-30.
  4. 1 2 3 "Data Development History and Data Quality". Integrated Taxonomic Information System. Retrieved 2016-05-30.
  5. "ITIS Citation" . Retrieved 2012-05-09.
  6. Page, D. M. R. (2005-04-09). "A Taxonomic Search Engine: Federating taxonomic databases using web services". BMC Bioinformatics. 6: 48. doi:10.1186/1471-2105-6-48. PMC   555944 . PMID   15757517.
  7. Guralnick, R. P.; et al. (September 2007). "Towards a collaborative, global infrastructure for biodiversity assessment". Ecology Letters. 10 (8): 663–672. doi:10.1111/j.1461-0248.2007.01063.x. PMC   2040220 . PMID   17594421.
  8. "One Million Species Catalogue of Life launch" (Press release). University of Reading. 2007-03-29. Retrieved 2008-03-16.
  9. "About the Catalog of Life: 2012 Annual Checklist". Catalog of Life. Integrated Taxonomic Information System (ITIS). Retrieved 22 May 2012.
  10. "Leading Scientists Announce Creation Of Encyclopedia Of Life". Science Daily. May 9, 2007. Adapted from a Harvard University news release.
  11. "Terms of Use - Encyclopedia of Life". Encyclopedia of Life.
  12. "NODC Taxonomic Code". National Oceanographic Data Center. Retrieved 2008-04-04.