Open main menu

Wikipedia:Automated taxobox system/intro

Documentation for the automated taxobox system

Taxonomy templates

Taxobox templates

This is a brief introduction to the "automated taxobox system". It is not a "how-to" guide.

Those familiar with the system prior to mid-2016 are advised to read Notes for "old hands".

Introduction to the automated taxobox systemEdit

What is it?Edit

Taxoboxes display the "taxonomic hierarchy" for a taxon. ("Taxon" is a general term for a named group of organisms, such as a subspecies, a species, a family, an order, etc.) The taxonomic hierarchy shows the location of the taxon within a particular classification system; e.g. for a genus, it may show its family, order, etc. up to kingdom.

Taxoboxes can be created manually by using the {{Taxobox}} template. Each taxobox must specify the complete taxonomic hierarchy to be displayed in the article. However, this results in a great deal of redundancy. As of February 2012, there were 38 articles on the species of Mammillaria. Using the Taxobox template means that it has to be repeated 38 times that the genus Mammillaria is in the family Cactaceae, which is in the order Caryophyllales, and so on up to Kingdom Plantae. Any one of the 38 articles could easily have a taxobox which was inconsistent with the others.

The automated taxobox system is a set of templates plus some Lua code which between them automatically generate the taxonomic hierarchy for a taxon. Thus knowing that Mammillaria tetrancistra is in the genus Mammillaria, the system can work out and display the complete hierarchy, from species up to kingdom. It can do the same for taxa at all ranks, including those below species.

(Its advantages and disadvantages are described in more detail below.)

How does it work?Edit

There are two parts to the system.

  1. Taxonomy templates, which act like a database, storing taxonomic hierarchies. These don't produce any visible output by themselves. They simply store information.
  2. Autotaxobox templates, which display a visible taxobox, complete with a taxonomic hierarchy automatically created from the taxonomy templates.

Taxonomy templatesEdit

The taxonomy templates are pages with titles of the general form "Template:Taxonomy/taxon" where taxon represents the name of the taxon. To show that a plant genus with the nonsense name Junkia is in the family Junkiaceae, you would create a page with the title "Template:Taxonomy/Junkia". When finished, the page would look something like this:

Rank: genus
Parent: Junkiaceae
other information

This says that Junkia (the last part of the name of the page) is a "genus" and has the parent "Junkiaceae". Then to connect up Junkiaceae, you would need to create a page with the title "Template:Taxonomy/Junkiaceae" which gave the rank and parent of Junkiaceae. This process would be continued until you found that the relevant template already existed.

A large number of taxonomy templates have already been created, so that for a real genus it's likely that the relevant templates are already there, or at most the genus template needs to be created.

Autotaxobox templatesEdit

The autotaxobox templates use the taxonomy templates to show a taxonomic hierarchy in a taxobox. As of December 2018, there are eight top-level display templates, including:

  1. Template:Automatic taxobox is used for taxa at the rank of genus and above.[1]
  2. Template:Speciesbox is used for species. Species don't normally need to be connected to their parent genus via a taxonomy template because the genus name is part of the name of the species. So there aren't usually any templates with names of the form "Template:Taxonomy/genus species". Hence species and lower ranks need to be handled a little differently from higher ranked taxa.
  3. Template:Subspeciesbox is used for subspecies whose names are governed by the zoological code (ICZN). This provides for three-part names (trinomials) without a "connecting term" (e.g. Junkia communis communis).
  4. Template:Infraspeciesbox is used for ranks below species (e.g. subspecies, varieties) whose names are governed by the botanical code (ICN). This provides for three-part names with a connecting term (e.g. Junkia communis subsp. communis or Junkia communis var. communis).
  5. Template:Hybridbox is used for animals that are hybrids within the same genus, so have scientific names of the form Panthera tigris × P. leo. (Plant hybrids are usually given a single nothospecific epithet, so Speciesbox can be used).
  6. Template:Virusbox is used instead of the other templates for all virus taxa.

These templates are alternatives to the manual Taxobox template, and require less information. Thus, provided that the taxonomy templates already existed, an article whose title was Felis which was about the animal genus Felis could use a template like the following:

Felis
Scientific classification  
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Mammalia
Order: Carnivora
Suborder: Feliformia
Family: Felidae
Subfamily: Felinae
Genus: Felis
{{Automatic taxobox
| taxon = Felis
}}

which generates the taxobox shown on the right.

Notice how the ranks above the genus Felis have been supplied automatically in the taxobox, using the taxonomy templates. (Have a look at Template:Taxonomy/Felis, for example.)

(If the Automatic taxobox template above is placed on the page whose title is exactly "Felis", then even the taxon = line can be omitted, as the name of the taxon will be picked up from the title of the page. However, this practice is deprecated. Specifying the taxon parameter documents the taxobox and ensures that it remains correct if the page is moved.)

In a real use, other parameters would also be needed, e.g. to supply an image and a caption for it, or to supply an authority for the genus name.

For a species, such as Felis chaus, a template like this could be used:

Automated taxobox system/intro
Scientific classification  
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Mammalia
Order: Carnivora
Suborder: Feliformia
Family: Felidae
Subfamily: Felinae
Genus: Felis
Species:
F. chaus
Binomial name
Felis chaus
{{Speciesbox
| taxon = Felis chaus
}}

which generates the taxobox shown on the right.

Why use the system?Edit

BenefitsEdit

The benefits of the automated taxobox system are as follows:

  • Less research is required when adding a taxobox to an article. Usually only one or two taxa will need to be researched, since an automated taxobox pulls already existing information about the upper-level taxa from its database.
  • When a taxonomic revision occurs (which happens all the time), all members of the affected taxa (provided they are using an automated taxobox already) are updated automatically with as little as a single edit.
  • Out-of-date taxonomies on Wikipedia articles using automated taxoboxes are less likely.
  • Taxonomies can be normalized more easily across Wikipedia.
  • Vandals not familiar with automated taxoboxes are unlikely to disrupt fully transcluded taxonomies.
  • Category:Automatic taxobox cleanup and other tracking categories automatically track several types of error, making structural vandalism and misguided editing easy to track down.
  • The code takes up less space in the editing window, making it easier to find the head of an article.

CostsEdit

There are some costs:

  • There's a minor increase in the time taken for a page to save due to the larger amount of data being processed in generating the taxobox.
  • Timely vandalism spotting is more difficult because few people watch any given taxon template.
  • Vandalism is more exposed across Wikipedia due to transclusions of taxon templates.
  • Editors who wish to edit the taxonomy may be discouraged by the steeper learning curve.
  • Representing special cases requires more detailed knowledge of the system.

What next?Edit

If you want to use the automated taxobox system, there's a lot of documentation available. Many more facilities exist than are discussed here.

  • WP:Automated taxobox system is the main resource; it starts with a table of contents, linking to explanations of how to create and use the various parts of the system.
  • All virus taxa are handled by {{Virusbox}}; all the other automated taxobox templates are only used for non-virus taxa.
  • {{Speciesbox/doc}} explains how to create taxoboxes for species.
  • {{Automatic taxobox/doc}} explains how to create taxoboxes for ranks above species (and special cases).
  • {{Subspeciesbox/doc}} and {{Infraspeciesbox/doc}} explain how to create taxoboxes for ranks below species (e.g. subspecies). The first is for animals, the second for plants (names regulated by the botanical code).
  • {{Hybridbox/doc}} explains how to create taxoboxes for animal hybrids within the same genus.

NotesEdit

  1. ^ It can be useful to divide up large genera by using ranks between species and genus, e.g. subgenus or section. In this case:
    • there has to be a taxonomy template at the species name, specifying the parent taxon
    • {{Automatic taxobox}} has to be used to create and display the taxobox, because {{Speciesbox}} works by looking up the parent of the genus. The same would apply for a rank below species level.