Zoology Web Resources

 

Introduction

 

Taxonomy

 

            Many of the resources covered in this volume deal with animal taxonomy, so some definitions are in order.  Systematics is a broad field that attempts to identify patterns in organisms and covers both taxonomy and evolutionary biology. The term is sometimes used as a synonym for taxonomy.  Taxonomy is the theory and practice of classifying and naming organisms.  Classification is the process of ranking groups of organisms in a hierarchical arrangement.  Taxon (plural taxa) is a taxonomic group of any level, such as genus, order, family, or kingdom.  Nomenclature is the system which describes how species and other higher groups are to be named, including which names are valid and how to Latinize terms from other languages.  Animal taxonomists follow the rules laid out in the International Code of Zoological Nomenclature (see the General Reference Sources chapter), while botanists and microbiologists have their own codes.  All currently accepted scientific names and descriptions began with Linnaeus’ publication of the tenth edition of Systema Naturae.

Taxonomy is often divided into two areas, descriptive taxonomy and phylogenetic taxonomy.  Descriptive taxonomy, as its name suggests, identifies and describes species and other groups.  The literature of descriptive taxonomy is widely distributed.  Taxonomists must refer back to the original description of a species, which may have been published at any time since Linnaeus’ original work and in a wide range of books, journals, bulletins, monographs, and other often obscure sources.  Various experts in families or orders of animals have then compiled catalogs, handbooks, or checklists that attempt to sort out the classification and nomenclature of that group, but such works are invariably outdated soon after publication as new species are discovered and other revisions made, which are then published in the same types of articles and books and the cycle begins again.  Phylogenetic taxonomy (or phylogenetics) attempts to trace the evolutionary relationships of organisms.  Most modern phylogenetics is based on cladistics, in which taxonomists attempt to identify clades, which are groups of organisms that contain the set of all descendants of a particular ancestor and no other organisms.  The dinosaur clade, for instance, would include dinosaurs and birds but not turtles even though dinosaurs and turtles are both reptiles.  After all, birds are descended from dinosaurs but turtles and dinosaurs had different reptilian ancestors.  Phylogenies, then, are branching family trees showing the relationships of organisms.

Despite the obvious advantages of the Web for organizing and making vast quantities of data available, its use by taxonomists is only beginning to take off.  Many authors have created authoritative Web sites describing the classification of the group of organisms that they study, but most of these relate to small taxa.  There is no Zoological Record equivalent for Web sites, so the sites are difficult to locate. A number of authors have begun to call for the creation of a large scale Web taxonomy system and several projects are currently underway.  These projects will be discussed in the General Reference Sources chapter, and include initiatives such as the Global Biodiversity Information Facility, Species 2000, the All Species Foundation, the Global Taxonomy Initiative, and others.  Their success should help revitalize the field of taxonomy and will certainly make the task of finding taxonomic information much easier.  At the time of writing, however, each project was in its infancy.  For the near future, the literature of zoology will continue to be primarily print-based.

 

About this book

 

            While the above discussion has centered on the technical aspects of taxonomy or nomenclature, these works are not the only ones discussed in this volume.  Also included are encyclopedias and dictionaries, handbooks that survey the diversity of a particular taxon of animals or of the animals of a particular geographic area, identification guides, journals, associations, and other useful tools.  A very select group of works discussing the biology of various taxa, especially the “lower” animals, is also included, as well as a very few books covering other topics such as animal ecology or behavior.  Most of these are annotated in the General Reference Sources chapter.  Paleontological materials are generally not covered, nor are materials on applied fields such as veterinary medicine, agriculture, or pest control though they often include useful information on individual species.  It should also be noted that most of the major taxonomic revisions are published as journal articles and are thus excluded from the purview of this volume, but they should be identifiable by use of the other resources listed.

 

Resources included

 

The arrangement of the book covers the periodical literature first, followed by monographic works.  A final section covers relevant associations. 

 

Indexes, Abstracts, and Bibliographies

            This section includes article indexes, abstracts, databases, and book-length bibliographies.

 

Journals

            Core journals and review publications are listed in this section.  The lists are extensive but are not intended to be comprehensive.

 

Guides to the Literature

Guides to the literature are books such as this one, that help readers identify major resources.  Several are listed in the General Reference Sources chapter, and other chapters where available.  This section also includes major Web directories with links to other pages of interest; also see the associated Web site at http://www.library.uiuc.edu/bix/zoology/.

 

Biographies and Histories

            Only relatively comprehensive biographies covering multiple individuals and broad histories covering long periods of time are annotated in this volume.

 

Dictionaries and Encyclopedias

            It is often difficult to distinguish between these two types of resources, so they are combined.  Dictionaries provide definitions of words and may discuss their derivation.  Encyclopedias generally have lengthier essays on topics and cover a broad range of topics.

 

Textbooks

            Textbooks are of use not only as texts for a course, but also for general reference.  Core texts are listed in this section.

 

Checklists and Classification Schemes

            There are two kinds of checklists, one that lists the valid and/or invalid scientific names for a particular taxon, and those that list all the species of a particular geographical region.  Both are included in this section, along with books that outline the classification of a taxon.

 

Handbooks

            Handbooks are the largest category of items covered in this book.  The term means a number of things, but as treated here includes faunas (surveys of the animals of a particular region), overviews of a particular order, and general works that do not fit in any of the other categories used.  The term “handbook” often refers to an identification guide, but these are treated in the Identification Tools section (below).  For the most part, only handbooks covering an entire order are included, though family-level handbooks are included for major families or if there is no comparable work for the entire order.  The geographic handbooks are almost all continent-wide or at least cover multiple countries. The following biogeographic headings were used, rather than geopolitical terms:

 

Identification Tools

            This includes field guides, manuals, and taxonomic keys.  All these resources are devised to help identify species or other taxa and range from the small, portable field guides designed for the use of non-specialists to detailed, technical manuals and keys for the use of professionals.

 

Associations

            Associations, societies, and other organizations that work with a particular group of organisms are included in this section.  Only professional organizations are listed.

 

 


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