Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History

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Carboniferous

 

The Vertebrate Species Data Fields

 

The vertebrate species entity contains taxonomic, morphological, and ecological ("ecomorphic") data for each species of vertebrate. In addition to the Data-Entry Authorization section, each species entry must be associated with at least one reference (which requires the fields ref.author_1 and ref.date). See Reference Data Fields.
Required fields for a vertebrate species consist of:

Genus vsp.genus
Species vsp.species
Unique field vsp.unf
Data Coordinator sau.coordinator
Data Authorizer sau.authorizer

Higher taxonomic information should be supplied for any genus that is new to the database. Later entries of congeneric species will be automatically supplied with the higher taxonomic information by the software, so it is not necessary to provide it in these cases.

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Activity period inferred for the species.

DATA TYPE

A predefined character string not exceeding 1 character in length.

DESCRIPTION

The primary time of day during which the species was active. Choices are Diurnal, Crepuscular, or Nocturnal.

INTERNAL TABLE.FIELD NAMES

vsp.activity

ALLOWED VALUES

c
d
n

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Beak

A description of the edentulous beak, if present.

DATA TYPE

A predefined character string not exceeding 3 characters in length.

DESCRIPTION

A description of the edentulous, usually horny beak (if present). [This field is currently subject to further development.]

INTERNAL TABLE.FIELD NAMES

vsp.beak

ALLOWED VALUES

[At the moment, y or n only. At a later date we may develop descriptors for beaks.]

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Body Mass

Average adult body mass for the species.

DATA TYPE

A real number (optional decimal point).

DESCRIPTION

The average adult body mass estimated for the species, in grams. Where there is sexual dimorphism in size, put the mean of the two sexes here and record the masses per sex, if known, in the Comment field. Confidence intervals, if known, can also be put there.

INTERNAL TABLE.FIELD NAMES

vsp.body_mass

ALLOWED VALUES

Any

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Brain Mass

Average adult brain mass for the species.

DATA TYPE

A real number (optional decimal point).

DESCRIPTION

The average adult brain mass estimated for the species, in grams. Where there is sexual dimorphism in size, put the mean of the two sexes here and record the masses per sex, if known, in the Comment field. Confidence intervals, if known, can also be put there.

INTERNAL TABLE.FIELD NAMES

vsp.brain_mass

ALLOWED VALUES

Any

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Class

The Linnean class to which the species belongs.

DATA TYPE

A character field not exceeding 30 characters in length.

DESCRIPTION

The Linnean class to which the species belongs.

INTERNAL TABLE.FIELD NAMES

vsp.class

ALLOWED VALUES

  Explanation
A Amphibia
B Aves
C Chondrichthyes
G Agnatha
M Mammalia
O Osteichthyes
P Placodermi
R Reptilia

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Comment

A comment on the addition of a new species, or an update.

DATA TYPE

Character field not exceeding 255 characters.

DESCRIPTION

Each time a species is added to the database, the Data-Entry Authorization section (see the Overview) must be filled out. The same thing occurs whenever the data for the species are updated. Included in this part of the data fields is a comment field. Include here reservations about certain data, explanations of what some inferences were based on, what references were used for what data, and other miscellaneous useful comments on your work in preparing the data for entry. Be brief!

INTERNAL TABLE.FIELD NAMES

sau.comment

ALLOWED VALUES

Any

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Data Authorizer

The authorizer of the data.

DATA TYPE

A character field not exceeding 25 characters. MANDATORY FIELD.

DESCRIPTION

The name of the member of a research group who authorizes the entry of information into the database. This may or may not be the same as the Data Coordinator. It is intended that the currently empowered Authorizers be a small and restricted set of research group members who work closely with the database. Their job is to certify that the data prepared by the Data Coordinator(s) meet the current standards for scientific accuracy and have been entered logically. They are also responsible for catching major errors of a scientific nature, inconsistencies, and misunderstandings on the part of whoever filled out the datasheet. No datasheet can be entered without an Authorizer.

INTERNAL TABLE.FIELD NAMES

sau.authorizer

ALLOWED VALUES

Any

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Data Coordinator

The name of the researcher preparing the data for entry.

DATA TYPE

A character string not exceeding 25 characters. MANDATORY FIELD.

DESCRIPTION

The data for each entity are prepared by or under the supervision of a particular researcher (or group of researchers). This (these) person(s) is designated the Data Coordinator, and is the primary source of the information and is responsible for its accuracy. Data Coordinators may or may not also be Data Authorizers. Data Coordinators possess such rights over the data as the Consortium has decided in its general policy on the subject. Briefly, for entities designated as "private", the Data Coordinator's data are treated as a collection that the Data Coordinator is actively working on. Thus, the Data Coordinator must be consulted/informed when other researchers use the data in some project intended for publication. The Data Coordinator may deny permission for such use. The Data Coordinator may initially or at a later time designate the status of a species or locality as "public". In this case, the data become "public domain" and can be used by anyone with access privileges to the database, for any purpose, without informing or obtaining permission from the Data Coordinator. The Consortium has established a time period (5 years from date of entry or last modification) after which data of a particular entity will convert to "public" status, unless there are compelling reasons to retain private status.

INTERNAL TABLE.FIELD NAMES

sau.coordinator

ALLOWED VALUES

Any

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Diet 1

Most general food-type category.

DATA TYPE

A predefined character string not exceeding 1 character in length.

DESCRIPTION

The predominant food type in the diet of the species, at the coarsest level of resolution: Animal, Plant, Omnivore. See also Diet 3, Diet 2, Relative Fiber Content, Selectivity, Food Processing Mode, Digestion.

INTERNAL TABLE.FIELD NAMES

vsp.diet_1

ALLOWED VALUES

a
o
p

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Diet 2

General food-type category.

DATA TYPE

A predefined character string not exceeding 9 characters in length.

DESCRIPTION

The predominant food type in the diet of the species, at an intermediate level of resolution. See also Diet 1, Diet 3, Relative Fiber Content, Selectivity, Food Processing Mode, Digestion.

INTERNAL TABLE.FIELD NAMES

vsp.diet_2

ALLOWED VALUES

carnivore
herbivore
invert
omnivore
piscivore

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Diet 3

Detailed food-type category.

DATA TYPE

A predefined character string not exceeding 10 characters in length.

DESCRIPTION

The predominant, or most important or most characteristic, food type in the diet of the species, at a detailed level of resolution. At this scale, the diets of many species will not be clearly distinguishable from one another using only a single term for the most common dietary component. Nevertheless, highly variable food-type categories often delineate distinct ecological/adaptive/functional types (as in the case of mixed browsing/grazing ungulates). That is, calling something a "frugivore" may not explicitly describe other components of its diet, some of which may be of adaptive importance to the species; it does not allow one to distinguish among species within the frugivore category, either. But it does allow one to place the species between omnivores or insectivores, on the one hand, and browsers, on the other.

Neontologists often are after detailed descriptions of particular species' diets, rather than the ability to make broad comparisons across species, and their attention to detail reflects this interest. Remember that we are not trying to feed fossil species, but rather to get some idea of what they were doing in the ecosystem relative to others. Our categories are necessarily coarser than what many neontologists would desire, but we are not after detailed niche overlap analyses with these categories.

Explanations for specific terms are given below. See also Diet 1, Diet 2, Relative Fiber Content, Selectivity, Food Processing Mode, Digestion.

INTERNAL TABLE.FIELD NAMES

vsp.diet_3

ALLOWED VALUES

  Explanation
anim_dom omnivores (~ similar proportions of animal and plant foods), animal food dominant
br/gr mixed browser/grazer
browse primarily dicot leaves eaten (= folivore)
cortex (bark)
exudates includes gum, resin, nectar, etc.
fr_grass fresh-grass grazer
fr-se-res combination of fruit/seed/exudates
fruit  
graze grazer (>90% grass)
hard molluscivores -- specialists
m/bone meat and specialists on bone consumption (e.g., Hyaena)
meat meat predominant, but take other animal, some plant foods
meat_only meat specialists, do not eat other foods
mixed soft and hard invertebrate food
myrmec myrmecophages (ant & termite specialists)
plant_dom omnivores, plant foods dominant
roots  
seeds  
soft soft invertebrate food

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Digestion

For herbivores, type of digestion.

DATA TYPE

A predefined character string not exceeding 2 characters in length.

DESCRIPTION

There are different broad strategies for breaking down plant material by means of microbial activity in the gut. Hindgut fermenters (hg) and foregut fermenters (fg) are found in a variety of living taxa. True ruminants (ru) are confined to the ruminant artiodactyls; they are separated here from other foregut fermenters, of which they form a special derived subclass.

INTERNAL TABLE.FIELD NAMES

vsp.digestion

ALLOWED VALUES

fg
hg
ru

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Family

The Linnean family to which the species belongs.

DATA TYPE

A character field not exceeding 30 characters in length.

DESCRIPTION

The Linnean family to which the species belongs. It should, as usual, begin with an upper-case letter.

INTERNAL TABLE.FIELD NAMES

vsp.family

ALLOWED VALUES

Any

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Feeding Habitat 1

General habitat where the species feeds.

DATA TYPE

A predefined character string not exceeding 2 characters in length.

DESCRIPTION

The general habitat from which the species obtains the major part of its trophic resources, and in which it ordinarily spends time feeding. The allowed values are identical to those for Shelter Habitat 1. See also Feeding Habitat 2.

INTERNAL TABLE.FIELD NAMES

vsp.feedinghab1

ALLOWED VALUES

  Explanation
ae aerial
aq aquatic
sa semi-aquatic
te terrestrial

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Feeding Habitat 2

Detailed terrestrial feeding habitat.

DATA TYPE

A predefined character string not exceeding 8 characters in length.

DESCRIPTION

For the Terrestrial (te) entry in Feeding Habitat 1 only, a further breakdown into more specific feeding habitats. They are described more fully below.

INTERNAL TABLE.FIELD NAMES

vsp.feedinghab2

ALLOWED VALUES

  Explanation
aerial feeds primarily while in flight
aquatic feeds primarily while submerged or at water surface
arb/surf feeds on ground and on trunk, lower branches, or even canopy of trees
canopy feeds in the trees, never on ground
caves  
surface feeds only on ground surface
u_ground feeds primarily underground

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Food Processing Mode

Mode of mechanical processing of food.

DATA TYPE

A predefined character string not exceeding 1 character in length.

DESCRIPTION

The primary way in which the animal mechanically processes food either prior to or in conjunction with digestion. Oral processors comminute food, reducing it to digestible-sized particles, primarily through chewing in the mouth. (e.g., herbivorous mammals, advanced ornithopod dinosaurs.) Gut processors, on the other hand, use their mouths and dentition (if any) primarily to obtain pieces of food to swallow, and do little processing in the mouth. Rather, most mechanical breakdown occurs in the digestive tract. (e.g., sauropod dinosaurs, birds, turtles). These distinctions are mostly of importance for herbivorous vertebrates, but even carnivorous vertebrates differ in the degree to which the dentition is used to slice meat.

INTERNAL TABLE.FIELD NAMES

vsp.processing

ALLOWED VALUES

g
o

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Genus

The generic name of the species.

DATA TYPE

A character field not exceeding 30 characters in length. MANDATORY FIELD.

DESCRIPTION

The generic name of the species. It should, as usual, begin with an upper-case letter. Exception: Generic names may also be given as "cf." followed by a generic name, or the entries "gen." or "indet.".

INTERNAL TABLE.FIELD NAMES

vsp.genus

ALLOWED VALUES

Any

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Hunt/Forage

Hunting mode for carnivores.

DATA TYPE

A predefined character string not exceeding 8 characters in length.

DESCRIPTION

The predominant hunting or foraging mode for carnivores. These categories are based upon those of Van Valkenburgh (1985) and are described more fully there. This field might also be of eventual use in describing foraging modes of non-carnivores, but at present these cannot be determined directly upon morphological criteria (such inferences as can be made are already taken care of in Feeding Habitat, Diet and Locomotion.)

INTERNAL TABLE.FIELD NAMES

vsp.hunt_forage

ALLOWED VALUES

  Explanation
ambush  
dig  
pounce/p pounce/pursuit
pursuit  

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Limb Posture

Limb posture.

DATA TYPE

A predefined character string not exceeding 2 characters in length.

DESCRIPTION

The general limb posture of the species.

INTERNAL TABLE.FIELD NAMES

vsp.limb_post

ALLOWED VALUES

  Explanation
er erect
ll limbless
se semi-erect
sp sprawl

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Locomotion 1

The most general substrate of locomotion.

DATA TYPE

A predefined character string not exceeding 2 characters in length.

DESCRIPTION

The general substrate upon which locomotion characteristically takes place. These categories are the same as those in Feeding Habitat 1 and Shelter Habitat 1.

INTERNAL TABLE.FIELD NAMES

vsp.locomo_1

ALLOWED VALUES

ae
aq
sa
te

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Specific substrate of terrestrial locomotion, or type of flying.

DATA TYPE

A predefined character string not exceeding 15 characters in length.

DESCRIPTION

For non-aquatic, non-aerial species the terrestrial substrate upon which locomotion characteristically takes place. "Arboreal" describes species that almost never come to the ground, or, if they do, it is almost always for the purpose of dispersing to another tree or trees. "Scansorial" is a broad category including those species that habitually use both trees and the ground in their movements. At the non-arboreal extreme, it includes species that rarely in practice use the trees, but are not morphologically prevented from doing so. [This category may eventually have to be split to distinguish species that exhibit some arboreal adaptations (e.g., squirrels), from those that could climb in a limited way if they had to (e.g., lions).] "Surficial" refers to those creatures who use only the ground surface in locomotion (e.g., sauropods, wildebeeste).

For aerial species, we allow a distinction to be made here between powered and nonpowered flight. Powered flight refers to active flying (by more or less continuous wing-flapping), whereas nonpowered flight refers to gliding, parachuting, or soaring, where the force of gravity and wind currents are used as the major propulsive forces. Although most soaring vertebrates are also capable of powered flight (at least in a limited way to get aloft), if the species' predominant mode of locomotion is soaring, then the species belongs in the nonpowered category for purposes of Locomotion 2. The categorization of flight locomotion in Locomotion 2 and Locomotion 3 is based on Norberg (1985).

INTERNAL TABLE.FIELD NAMES

vsp.locomo_2

ALLOWED VALUES

  Explanation
aerial  
arboreal  
fossorial  
npow_flight gliding, soaring
pow_flight active flying: most birds, bats
scansorial  
semi-fossorial  
surficial  

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Locomotion 3

The predominant mode of locomotor activity.

DATA TYPE

A predefined character string not exceeding 15 characters in length.

DESCRIPTION

The predominant mode of locomotor activity. [These categories are not necessarily complete at this time.] The categorization of flight locomotion in Locomotion 2 and Locomotion 3 is based on Norberg (1985).

INTERNAL TABLE.FIELD NAMES

vsp.locomo_3

ALLOWED VALUES

  Explanation
arb_above_br arboreal, above-branch (incl. "scampering")
arb_suspensory arboreal, below-branch suspensory
bipedal_str bipedal striding
cursorial running specialists
fast_flight fast powered flight (e.g., ducks, free-tailed bats)
gen_quad general, unspecialized quadrupedal
glide short, controlled nonpowered flight, glide angle < 45deg. (flying squirrels, Dermoptera, flying possums, Icarosaurus, Draco, some flying frogs)
graviportal e.g., elephants
hover powered flight with specializations for hovering (hummingbirds)
k_walk knuckle-walking
parachute nonpowered flight, glide angle > 45deg. (e.g., flying geckos, some flying frogs)
saltatory jumping, hopping, "ricochetal"
s/f_flight fly slow or fast (e.g., swallows, kites)
slow_flight slow powered flight (e.g. gallinaceous birds)
soar all types of soaring (e.g., vultures, albatrosses)
undulate e.g., snakes

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Microwear

Rough description of the microwear patterns observed on tooth crowns.

DATA TYPE

A predefined character string not exceeding 7 characters in length.

DESCRIPTION

This field describes the kind of microwear (in terms of striations or pits) revealed by microscopic examination of the wear facets of the tooth crowns of the species. A considerable literature exists concerning the ways to infer aspects of a species' diet from patterns of microwear.

INTERNAL TABLE.FIELD NAMES

vsp.microwear

ALLOWED VALUES

  Explanation
pit_dom pits predominant
pit_str pits and striae appear equally dominant
str_dom striations predominant

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Molar Crown Type

A classification of the morphology of a mammal species molar crowns.

DATA TYPE

A predefined character string not exceeding 6 characters in length.

DESCRIPTION

This field describes the morphology of mammalian molar crowns, and is complimentary to the Tooth Shape - Multicuspid field. The latter presents a traditional classification of molar crown types (and other multicusped teeth) for vertebrates. Molar Crown Type, in contrast, uses a more recently developed classification scheme that is currently restricted to mammals. The scheme is phylogenetically neutral and descriptive, allowing functional interpretations and interpretations of underlying developmental mechanisms (see Jernvall, 1995). Currently, the values for the field consist of five-letter alphanumeric codes, described in Jernvall, et al. (1996), and the reader is referred to that paper for further explanation.

INTERNAL TABLE.FIELD NAMES

vsp.crowntype

ALLOWED VALUES

(As specified in Jernvall, et al. 1996 and subsequent papers)

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Occlusion

Whether upper and lower teeth occlude.

DATA TYPE

A predefined character string not exceeding 2 characters in length.

DESCRIPTION

Whether or not upper and lower teeth occlude.

INTERNAL TABLE.FIELD NAMES

vsp.occlusion

ALLOWED VALUES

n
y

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Order

The Linnean order to which the species belongs.

DATA TYPE

A character field not exceeding 30 characters in length.

DESCRIPTION

The Linnean order to which the species belongs. It should, as usual, begin with an upper-case letter.

INTERNAL TABLE.FIELD NAMES

vsp.lorder

ALLOWED VALUES

Any

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Population Structure

Indicates whether species is solitary or social.

DATA TYPE

A predefined character string not exceeding 3 characters in length.

DESCRIPTION

Occasionally there will be evidence of herding or other gregarious behavior for a species. This could include evidence from mass deaths, well-preserved trace fossils (e.g., trackways), nesting-site or burrow aggregations, or association of individuals in burrows. It could also be based, less directly, on other aspects of the organism's biology -- for example, sexual dimorphism in sexual display or combat features. If so, indicate "soc" here and give details briefly in the Comment field. The choice "sol" (solitary) is allowed for completeness, but ordinarily there will be no positive evidence for solitary behavior, so the alternative to "soc" is usually a blank.

INTERNAL TABLE.FIELD NAMES

vsp.pop_struc

ALLOWED VALUES

soc
sol

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Relative Fiber Content

Relative content of plant fiber.

DATA TYPE

A predefined character string not exceeding 1 character in length.

DESCRIPTION

The relative amount of plant fiber in the food of the species. Plant food can be divided into cell contents such as sugars, proteins and storage carbohydrates, which are directly digestible by vertebrates. Plant cell-walls, however, are composed of material ("fiber") partially digestible only by microbial fermentation. Thus, the higher the fiber content, relative to the amount of energy contained in the easily-digested portion, the harder it is to obtain energy from the forage and the poorer the "quality" of the food on a per-unit basis. In addition, the proportion of the fiber digestible by fermentation also varies among plant species, plant parts, and growth stages. This field describes the food as having high, medium, and low levels of fiber. It is intended as a rough indication of the nutritional quality of a species' diet. It refers only to herbivorous diets, or the plant portions of omnivorous diets. (The field basically functions to group various Diet 3 categories by relative fiber content.)

INTERNAL TABLE.FIELD NAMES

vsp.rel_fib

ALLOWED VALUES

h
l
m

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Selectivity

The degree to which the animal is selective in its diet, relative to others within the same general dietary type (as defined by the Diet 1-3 fields).

DATA TYPE

A predefined character string not exceeding 1 character in length.

DESCRIPTION

Within its food-type category (Diet 1-3) a species may feed selectively or unselectively. Thus this field applies to any dietary category. Some food types impose selectivity restrictions on the species that feed on them. For example, most large grazers are less selective than mixed feeders or browsers. This is not what this field is meant to indicate! Rather, it applies within dietary categories. It could, for example, be used to distinguish between relatively selective and relatively unselective grazers.

INTERNAL TABLE.FIELD NAMES

vsp.selectivity

ALLOWED VALUES

s
u

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Sexual Dimorphism - Display

The existence of sexual dimorphism in display structures.

DATA TYPE

A predefined character string not exceeding 1 character in length.

DESCRIPTION

Whether there is evidence of sexual dimorphism in display (or sexual combat) structures. (e. g., horns, antlers, dome-heads, canines). If the presence of these features is unknown, leave the field blank rather than enter "n."

INTERNAL TABLE.FIELD NAMES

vsp.sd_display

ALLOWED VALUES

n
y

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Sexual Dimorphism - Size

The existence of sexual dimorphism in overall size.

DATA TYPE

A predefined character string not exceeding 1 character in length.

DESCRIPTION

Whether there is sexual dimorphism in overall body size.

INTERNAL TABLE.FIELD NAMES

vsp.sd_size

ALLOWED VALUES

n
y

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Shelter Habitat 1

General habitat where the species shelters.

DATA TYPE

A predefined character string not exceeding 2 characters in length.

DESCRIPTION

The general habitat in which the animal sleeps, shelters, or avoids predation when not feeding. The allowed values are identical to those for Feeding Habitat 1. See also Shelter Habitat 2.

INTERNAL TABLE.FIELD NAMES

vsp.shelterhab1

ALLOWED VALUES

  Explanation
ae aerial
aq aquatic
sa semi-aquatic
te terrestrial

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Shelter Habitat 2

Detailed terrestrial shelter habitat.

DATA TYPE

A predefined character string not exceeding 8 characters in length.

DESCRIPTION

For the Terrestrial (te) entry in Shelter Habitat 1 only, a further breakdown into more specific shelter habitats. They are described more fully below, and are mostly identical to the fields for Feeding Habitat 2.

INTERNAL TABLE.FIELD NAMES

vsp.shelterhab2

ALLOWED VALUES

  Explanation
aquatic shelters under or at water surface
arb/surf shelters on ground or on trunk, lower branches of trees
canopy shelters in the trees, never on ground
caves  
surface shelters only on ground surface
u_ground shelters primarily underground

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Snout-Vent Length

A crude description of the overall body length of adults of the species.

DATA TYPE

A predefined character field not exceeding 7 characters in length.

DESCRIPTION

For many species body-mass values will be unavailable or cannot be estimated with any confidence. However, every species should be classifiable into one of the gross size ranges listed below. This field will allow at least a crude characterization of body sizes for any fossil locality.

INTERNAL TABLE.FIELD NAMES

vsp.sv_length

ALLOWED VALUES

<10cm
10cm-1m
1m-5m
>5m

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Species

The species epithet of the species.

DATA TYPE

A character field not exceeding 30 characters in length. MANDATORY FIELD.

DESCRIPTION

The species name of the species. It is always entirely in lower case. Species may also be recorded as "sp.", "indet.", or preceded by "cf." to indicate different levels of uncertainty in assignment. These three strings are the only ones that the graphical interface recognizes as alternatives to Linnean names. "sp." implies that it is known that this is a new or separate species, but that it currently has no formal taxonomic name; use "indet." for a species that is not identifiable at the species level. "cf." is to indicate any of the many tentative assignments (including "aff.", "near", ? species, etc.). "cf." entries always are recorded as separate species, not as instances of the referred species.

INTERNAL TABLE.FIELD NAMES

vsp.species

ALLOWED VALUES

Any

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Status

The current status (public or private) of a species record.

DATA TYPE

A predefined character string not exceeding 15 characters in length.

DESCRIPTION

Every species or locality record in the Database at any moment is assigned a status, which indicates the level of access permitted to that record. Currently, the value "public" indicates that the record is essentially "public domain" and will be made available without restriction in the public domain version of the ETE Database. The value "private" indicates that the record will be accessible only to those researchers who have access to the ongoing working database. Records will ordinarily be entered with "private" status until the members of the Project (q.v.) that has generated them releases them to the public. The Data Coordinator (q.v.) for each record is ultimately responsible for any changes of its status. Additional values for status may eventually be added if it becomes necessary to specify in finer detail the access level of an entity.

INTERNAL TABLE.FIELD NAMES

vsp.status

ALLOWED VALUES

private
public

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Symphyseal Mobility

Whether or not the symphysis is mobile.

DATA TYPE

A predefined character string not exceeding 2 characters in length.

DESCRIPTION

Whether or not the mandibular symphysis is mobile.

INTERNAL TABLE.FIELD NAMES

vsp.symph_mob

ALLOWED VALUES

n
y

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Tooth Height

A measure of tooth crown height (hypsodonty).

DATA TYPE

A predefined character string not exceeding 3 characters in length.

DESCRIPTION

An indication of hypsodonty (tooth crown height) or the nature of other adaptations to deal with the problem of lifetime tooth wear. Tooth replacement, Tooth plates, and Hypselodont (ever-growing teeth) are absolute descriptors. The terms Brachydont, Mesodont and Hypsodont refer to different degrees of crown height of (mammalian) cheek teeth, and are subject to a variety of interpretations. Hypsodont (high-crowned) teeth may be defined objectively as those where the antero-posterior length is exceeded by the dorso-ventral height (Janis & Fortelius, 1988). "Somewhat hypsodont" teeth, intermediate between brachydont and hypsodont, are referred to as "mesodont," but there is no corresponding objective definition of this term. Quantitative indices of hypsodonty have been used (Janis, 1988), and might prove superior to the classification scheme presented here. Thus, this field is currently subject to further development.

INTERNAL TABLE.FIELD NAMES

vsp.tht

ALLOWED VALUES

  Explanation
bra brachydont
mes mesodont
hyp hypsodont
hys hypselodont
trp tooth replacement
tpl tooth plates

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Tooth shape -- multicuspid

A description of tooth crown morphology, for multicusped teeth.

DATA TYPE

A predefined character string not exceeding 3 characters in length.

DESCRIPTION

A description of the morphology of the tooth crown, for multicusped teeth (if present). In concert with the other tooth morphology fields, this may allow functional interpretations to be made independently of whatever has been entered in the diet fields. Terminology for tooth-crown morphology is most highly developed for extant and fossil mammals, but no system has gained universal acceptance. The following reflects a compromise among many competing traditional systems, and is based partly on Fortelius (1985) and Janis and Fortelius (1988). This field is currently subject to further development. Improved nomenclature for some mammal groups, such as rodents and insectivores, might be more functionally indicative. Also, an expanded list of terms would be useful to characterize more fully the variation found among nonmammalian terrestrial vertebrates -- dinosaurs and therapsids in particular. The similar Molar Crown Type field is based on an alternative descriptive classification scheme, and currently applies only to mammals.

INTERNAL TABLE.FIELD NAMES

vsp.tshm

ALLOWED VALUES

  Explanation Example
bil bilophodont tapir, kangaroo
bll bucco-lingual single row of cusps  
blm buno-lamellar some rodents
bun bunodont bears, many suids & primates
bus bunoselenodont tragulids
col columnar warthog, dugong
csc carnassial shear + crushing postcanines hyaena
cso carnassial shear w/ other postcanine functions dog
csp carnassial shear primary cat
cyl cylindrical Cylindrodontidae, Stylinodon
dil dilambdodont shrews, moles
ect ectolophodont (ectoloph dominant edge) most rhinos, hyraxes
edt edentulous anteater
lam lamellar elephant, some rodents
lss leaf-shaped, serrated ornithopod dinosaurs
md1 mesio-distal single row of cusps triconodonts
mdp mesio-distal multiple rows of cusps tritylodonts, multituberculates
plo plagiolophodont (flat trilophodonts) Equus, white rhino
qtb quadritubercular hedgehogs
sel selenodont (general) Bovidae, Cervidae
tri simple tritubercular some insectivores, marsupials
zal zalambdodont tenrecs, chrysochlorids

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Tooth shape -- unicuspid

A description of tooth crown morphology for single-cusped teeth.

DATA TYPE

A predefined character string not exceeding 3 characters in length.

DESCRIPTION

A description of the morphology of the tooth crown, for single-cusped teeth (if present). In concert with the other tooth morphology fields, this may allow functional interpretations to be made independently of whatever has been entered in the diet fields. [This field is currently subject to further development.]

INTERNAL TABLE.FIELD NAMES

vsp.tshu

ALLOWED VALUES

  Explanation Example
bls bucco-lingually compressed, serrated  
blu bucco-lingually compressed, unserrated  
peg peg-like teeth pinnipeds
rnd rounded, quasi-spherical  

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Unique

Makes the species entry unique.

DATA TYPE

A character field not exceeding 30 characters in length.

DESCRIPTION

At times the occurrences of the same species at different localities will still differ in some ecologically meaningful way. For example, the same named species may be of substantially different size in different fossil localities. In order to record the size appropriate to each locality, one must somehow separate the two species occurrences -- as if they were two separate species. At other times, adequate identifications may be unavailable, or systematic work needs to be done, such that the best one can do is to identify to some higher taxon (e. g., Somegenus sp.). In such a case, "Somegenus sp." is what the computer will search on when a species list is entered. But there may be many undescribed species of Somegenus, each different in ecologically meaningful ways, and found in a variety of localities. Yet, they all have the same generic and specific name as far as the computer is concerned. They need to be treated individually.

The unique field is the way to do this. In addition to Genus and Species, this field is also searched when a species name is input as part of a species list. In effect, the ETE Database uses "trinomial" designations for its "species". Thus, to separate occurrences of Somegenus, all one has to do is to specify an entry in the unique field. It might be a letter or a number, or an abbreviation for a locality, or any string of 30 characters or fewer that will serve to identify it uniquely. Remember that other people might be working with Somegenus as well, so naming a species "Somegenus sp. A" (i.e., the unique field = "A") might inadvertently identify it incorrectly as another one already in the database. One fairly safe solution would be to include some kind of locality, regional, or temporal designations within the 30-character string -- increasing the probability that the unique field will really be unique.

Data Coordinators must keep track of their own usages and assignments using this field, and they should become aware of the ways in which the species (or close relatives) that they are working with may have already been entered by other workers. The computer cannot sort out a nomenclatural mess where two different things have been given the same name by mistake. On the other hand, excessive use of the unique field, resulting in a situation where all or most occurrences of a species are distinguished as unique, should also be avoided. This is surely unnecessary, takes up valuable storage space, and can also become confusing to other workers.

There are, however, a number of common situations that require the use of the unique field. These include cases where useful information is contained in assignments to Linnean hierarchical levels other than those allowed in the ordinary data fields, such as subfamilies, tribes, subgenera, subspecies and the like. Most importantly, an entry in the unique field is required if both genus and species are indeterminate, but assignment can be made to some higher taxon (as is usually the case). This is because the genus and species fields alone do not specify the taxonomic level and taxon to which the assignment can be made (e.g., we need to be able to distinguish "Elephantidae indet. sp." from "Sauropoda indet. sp."). The simplest solution is to put the lowest higher taxon to which the assignment can be made in the unique field ("indet. sp. Edaphosauridae").

The following examples show the recommended conventions for entering unique field information for vertebrate species.

 

SITUATION EXAMPLE GENUS EXAMPLE SPECIES EXAMPLE UNIQUE FIELD COMMENT
Species in a given locality or region that differs from other occurrences of the same species Cercopithecoides kimeui E.Turkana (E.Turkana = site or locality name)
There is a (widely understood) non-site-related difference from ordinary occurrences, not formally recognized in taxonomic nomenclature Homo
Kolpochoerus
sapiens
limnetes
archaic
sensu_C+W
(C+W = authors)
Species is indeterminate or unnamed, but with site specific or other descriptive information that distinguishes this occurrence from other instances where the species can be identified only to genus: Cercopithecoides
Cercopithecus
Gazella
sp.
sp.
sp.
sp.nov.-E.Turkana
A.-E.Turkana
B-Lothagam(large)
(Note avoidance of generic "sp. nov." or "sp.A" by including locality designation or other restrictive qualification)
Species or genus has alternate name(s), or quasi-equiprobable identification:\ Kobus
Tragelaphus
Rhinocolobus
sigmoidalis
sp.
turkanensis
or_ellipsiprymnus
or_Taurotragus_sp.
or_Paracolobus_mutiwa
 
Species or genus is associated with infor-mative or widely-recognized subtaxon below generic rank Elephas
Theropithecus
recki
sp.
shungurensis
(Simopithecus)
(a subspecies)
(a subgenus)
Both genus and species are inde-terminate or unnamed.
An entry in the unique field is mandatory when both genus and species are indeterminate. Ordinarily the unique field should then contain the name of the lowest higher taxon to which an identification can be made. This taxon may belong to a rank not represented in the ETE Database fields, and may be combined with other information.
indet.
indet.
indet.
indet.
indet.
sp.
sp.
sp.
sp.
sp.
Hominidae
Primates
Alcelaphini
Alcelaphini_2_Hadar
Cricetinae_large-W.Turkana
 

INTERNAL TABLE.FIELD NAMES

vsp.unf

ALLOWED VALUES

Any

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