The Reptile Database updated


Some new lizard species described in 2014
The Reptile Database (RDB) is a very useful tool for herpetologists, and they released a new version a few days ago. The new version lists 10,119 species (including 139 described this year), up from 10,038 in August, 35,615 references (including 1,203 published this year), up from 34,104 in August, which resulted in almost 200 new and changed names.

The site also is importing references for all of the papers published in Herpetology Notes and BioGecko, and they have about a 1000 papers from Sauria now crossed reference and they can be individually ordered from the RBD.

The RDB Newsletter also noted some selected taxonomic news:

Homalopsidae: Murphy and Voris (2014) suggested a number of new genera and revalidated a few more, leading to 28 genera for just 53 species.

Boidae: Pyron et al. 2014 suggested to split the monophyletic boas into multiple families; we did not follow this suggestion following a discussion with the Scientific Advisory Board (see below). However, the new suggested families (such as “Sanziniidae) can be found in the database.

More species and genera split, including Lampropeltis, Blanus, Crotalus triseriatus, Hemidactylus fasciatus, and Pelomedusa subrufa. Guo et al. (2014) split the fairly large genus Amphiesma (43 species) into 3 genera. Only Amphiesma stolatum remains in the genus.

The RDB recently constituted a Scientific Advisory Board (SAB) to make general strategic decisions as well a decisions on controversial taxonomic issues. One of the first recommendations of the SAB was not to adopt the suggested Boid taxonomy suggested by Pyron et al. (2014, see above). We continue to consult individual experts in more special cases, e.g. on individual species or genera. There is a consensus that all published taxonomic changes should be in the Reptile Database but when it comes to valid names they can only show one “accepted” name for any given species even if several are in use. Instead of flip-flopping between names with each new publication, the result will be a bit more conservative but also more stable. The members of the SAB are listed on a new page at http://www.reptile-database.org/db-info/sab.html.

Some new snake species described in 2014
In order to manage data curation and data import better, we have started to recruit editors for special tasks. 

Paul Freed and Sven Mecke are our first volunteer photo editors. They will receive the photos sent to the RDB, edit them, verify correct identifications with experts, find photos of species not pictured etc. This will also allow us to process photos faster. Thed RBD is looking for a photo editor taking care of turtles.

Similar to the photo editors, RBD is looking for volunteers willing to help with the curation of papers. Initially we will start with editors for turtles, crocodiles, and squamate families (or genera if they have a substantial number of species). The taxonomic editors will receive papers from which they are supposed to extract information that is relevant for the database such as taxonomic or nomenclatural changes, new distribution records, or databasable life history data.

The RBD is asking instructors teaching herpetology or taxonomy to help improve data curation by using it in their classes. Students could curate papers, edit Wikipedia pages link to the Reptile Database, ID species, or find and analyze other information. There is always a large backlog of papers that need to be curated, including simple cases with new distribution data or more complicated ones. Please get in touch if you are interested. They have designed a few exercised and assignment for classroom use: http://www.reptile-database.org/db-info/teaching.html.
RDB has a large number of new photos (>1,500). However, these are added to the database independently of text, and thus have not been updated yet. This will probably take another few weeks or so, just in case you do not see the photos that you have submitted. In any case, more photos are always welcome! Please send photos (with location or coordinates) to info@reptile-database.org.

The RDB often use Google Maps to verify the localities reported in papers. However, Google Maps shows different maps in different countries. For instance, Google Maps in India shows Arunachal Pradesh as part of India. However, Google Maps in China shows Arunachal Pradesh as part of China. The RDB will replace current approximate maps with “real" distribution maps sooner or later, such details are important when you search the Reptile Database for geographic areas (or if you need a list of all Indian or Chinese reptiles). Right now, they treat Arunachal Pradesh as part of India. Finally, there are different names in different Google Maps versions. For instance, in the international version you can see the “Persian Gulf”. However, in Arabian countries it is called the “Arabian Gulf”. There are a number of other contentious borders or names, so please keep this in mind when you search the database.

In the course of history new countries form, such as the new countries that used to be Yugoslavia or North and South Sudan (which used to be Sudan). However, there are also new states, such as the new state of Telangana in India, and the Indian government apparently discusses the creation of another 21 new states (the current states are fairly new too, many formed in 1956). Obviously, this can cause headaches in trying to keep tabs on reptiles in those states, especially when they are species-rich such as those in India. Please let RDB know if you see discrepancies or errors.

A new web service and database, http://journalmap.org/ offers a scientific literature search engine that empowers you to find relevant research based on location and biophysical attributes combined with traditional keyword searches. Give it a try.

The RDB does not have funding. If you plan to submit a grant related to reptile taxonomy or with databasable information, they are asking members to consider including the Reptile Database as a subcontractor or collaborator. Or budget personnel to curate data for the RDB.

Since it is gifting season, the RDB is accepting donations now. Available money is used to buy literature, travel to libraries, or pay students to enter, scan, or process data. You can donate at this link: https://www.paypal.com/cgi-bin/webscr?cmd=_s-xclick&hosted_button_id=5EP9QGWFLKA7W.




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