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Standards and Database Documentation

An overriding goal of the ITIS project is to provide accurate, scientifically credible, and current taxonomic data that meet the needs of the ITIS partners and the user public. To accomplish this goal we have established a set of standards and guidelines. The initial version of ITIS includes National Oceanographic Data Center (NODC) data, with modifications. As groups are reviewed, quality indicators for credibility, completeness, and currency will be associated with each record. See the Data Development History and Quality Indicators page for more information. ITIS is actively seeking contributors to help in this process and welcomes itiswebmaster@itis.gov inquiries.

ITIS does not intend to serve as a forum for cutting-edge taxonomic classifications. Rather, ITIS is meant to serve as a standard to enable the comparison of biodiversity datasets, and therefore aims to incorporate classifications that have gained broad acceptance in the taxonomic literature and by professionals who work with the taxa concerned.

Data Standards

  • Data conform with the International Code of Botanical Nomenclature and the International Code of Zoological Nomenclature.
  • A five kingdom system has been adopted as a standard. The kingdoms are Monera, Protista, Plantae, Fungi, and Animalia.
  • Ranks in the animal kingdom below subspecies will not be included in ITIS regardless of their occasional inclusion in datasets, as these ranks are not allowed under the zoological code. The botanical code allows the ranks variety, subvariety, forma, and subforma.
  • Protists, depending on the group considered, have historically been treated according to either the zoological code (i.e. protozoans) or the botanical code (i.e. algae) and in some cases according to both. Also, the algae are often classified into multiple kingdoms. ITIS will make practical decisions as to the placement of these groups within the five kingdom framework.

ITIS Data Models

Please Note: as of April 2003, the ITIS database schema and/or data element definitions have been changed as follows:

  • The length of data element, unaccept_reason (unacceptability_reason), has been increased to 50. The unacceptability reasons defined in the ITIS Submittal Guidelines are now fully implemented.
  • The length of data element, origin, has been increased to 50. New origin values, Native and Extirpated, and Native and Extinct, are now included in the definition.
  • The data element, uncertain_prnt_ind (uncertain_parent_indicator), has been added to the taxonomic_units table. This element is defined as char(3) and is optional. It improves the ability to identify taxa whose positions in the hierarchy are uncertain.

    This document requires the Adobe Reader software  ITIS Database - Physical Model for Internet Viewing.
    This version of the physical model consists of a number of linked files that allow faster viewing via the Internet. Note: This version does not include the references restructuring information. The references restructuring information is included in the complete physical model for printing below starting on page 52, or as separate documents described below. The date for complete implementation of the references restructuring has not been set.

    This document requires the Adobe Reader software  ITIS Database - Physical Model for Printing.
    This version of the physical model consists of one file that, when accessed, allows you to view or print out the entire model from one single document. Because one file is used instead of a number of separate files, this version of the model does take longer to access than the version designed strictly for Internet viewing. The references restructuring information was added to the file in August, 1999. The new information begins on page 52. The date for complete implementation of the references restructuring has not been set.


    This document requires the Adobe Reader software ITIS Online Database - References Data Model
    This is a 1-page representation of the references portion of the ITIS physical data model. When implemented, the tables identified will replace the current Publications and Reference_Links tables.

    This document requires the Adobe Reader software  ITIS Online Database - References Tables
    This is a 12-page extract from the data dictionary describing the database tables pertaining to the references implementation.

    This document requires the Adobe Reader software  ITIS Database - References Data Elements
    This is a 35-page extract from the data dictionary describing the data elements pertaining to the references implementation.


    Link to the Adobe Website and the Adobe Reader

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