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A Taxonomic Search Engine: Federating taxonomic databases using web services

Roderic DM Page

Author Affiliations

Division of Environmental and Evolutionary Biology, Institute of Biomedical and Life Sciences, Graham Kerr Building, University of Glasgow, Glasgow G12 8QQ, UK

BMC Bioinformatics 2005, 6:48  doi:10.1186/1471-2105-6-48

Published: 9 March 2005



The taxonomic name of an organism is a key link between different databases that store information on that organism. However, in the absence of a single, comprehensive database of organism names, individual databases lack an easy means of checking the correctness of a name. Furthermore, the same organism may have more than one name, and the same name may apply to more than one organism.


The Taxonomic Search Engine (TSE) is a web application written in PHP that queries multiple taxonomic databases (ITIS, Index Fungorum, IPNI, NCBI, and uBIO) and summarises the results in a consistent format. It supports "drill-down" queries to retrieve a specific record. The TSE can optionally suggest alternative spellings the user can try. It also acts as a Life Science Identifier (LSID) authority for the source taxonomic databases, providing globally unique identifiers (and associated metadata) for each name.


The Taxonomic Search Engine is available at webcite and provides a simple demonstration of the potential of the federated approach to providing access to taxonomic names.