Paper No. 8
Presentation Time: 8:00 AM-12:00 PM
PROPOSAL FOR AN ONLINE DATABASE OF FORAMINIFERAL TAXONOMY
In order to perform useful biological, palaeoclimatological, or stratigraphic work, one must accurately and consistently define the fundamental biological taxonomic units. The taxonomy of the Foraminifera has been in constant flux for more than 200 years, since entering the scientific literature misclassified as tiny cephalopods by Linneaus in 1758. This problem persists to the present day, and every indication suggests it will likely continue in the future. The standard taxonomic reference for the group, Loeblich and Tappan's 1987 Foraminiferal Genera and Their Classification
, while an excellent reference, is nearly 20 years out of date, becoming more so all the time, and classifies only to genus level. One striving for an accurate suprageneric classification must supplement it with numerous updates, revisions, additions, and emendations, including Loeblich and Tappan's 1992 Present status of foraminiferal classification, and Sen Gupta's 1999 Systematics of Modern Foraminifera. Modern genetic techniques and consequent taxonomic conceptions mean these groupings will shift all the more often. Accurate species-level classification requires a vast and growing, not to mention often conflicting, library of references.
The proposed solution to this taxonomic quagmire is an online database of foraminiferal taxonomy. Such a database would provide the benefits of being hierarchical, easily searchable, widely and easily available, and always up to date. Additionally, it would bring together descriptions from multiple sources for comparison, provide a variety of taxon images (light micrograph, SEM, etc.) from descriptions and other sources, and could be linked to genetic information available in GenBank and elsewhere. It would be an invaluable resource to researchers attempting to identify foraminiferans. A prototype of such a database is being constructed at the University of South Florida's College of Marine Science, presently containing Recent, mostly larger Pacific, Foraminifera. However, this database could easily be expanded to arbitrary degree to contain any number of the perhaps 4000 Recent and 10,000 fossil taxa.