Review of plant taxonomy (Britain and Ireland dictionary)

iSpot applies the name Plantae to the clade Archaeplastida, corresponding to the Plants group in iSpot revision 3 (kelps and other meta-algae having been moved to other organisms under Chromista).

Archaeplastida is divided into Biliphyta (glaucophytes and red algae) and Viridiplantae (green algae and land plants). iSpot also places Tracheophyta directly under Plantae, rather than under VIridiplantae, which is where it should go if the browser hierarchy is to reflect the current consensus on taxonomy and phylogeny.

5 vascular plant groups are placed under Tracheophyta (lycopodiophytes, horsetails, conifers, gingko and flowering plants); the 6th (ferns) is placed under Viridiplantae. That is a problem. There is also the issue that horsetails tend to be included within ferns nowadays, but I’m not sure that’s 100% settled - older molecular work had horsetails and whisk ferns nested within “true ferns”, but there are now cladograms showing eusporangiate and leptosporangiate ferns as sister groups.

Viridiplantae is divided into the 3 non-vascular land plant groups (mosses, liverworts and hornworts), the misplaced ferns, and green algae split into two groups. Not all green algae groups are included in the browser (perhaps some are absent from Britain and Ireland), which complicates comparison with other classifications, but it looks as if the modern concepts of Charophyta and Chlorophyta are being used. Chlorophyta is split into 4 groups, which are all “core chlorophytes” - the paraphyletic prasinophytes appear to be absent from the browser. One of those 4 groups - Bryopsidophyceae - seems to have been sunk into a second - Ulvophyceae - in more recent work.

There is also a seaweeds entry in the taxonomy browser, which includes red algae, brown algae, and the two green algae groups. This ends up incorporating freshwater algae, both red and green, including stoneworts, and also terrestrial algae.

Looking upwards, there’s no direct way into Chromista and Protozoa. That might also be the case for Coelenterata (jellyfish and hydras), Ctenophora (comb jellies), Porifera (sponges), Bryozoa (moss animals), and Brachiopoda (lamp shells). Most other non-arthropod, non-mollusc, metazoan phyla are accessible via Worms.

Magnoliopsida (flowering plants) goes direct to the orders (and Boraginaceae; the order Boraginales was added in APG4, so that could be used instead).

Proposed fixes for plants

  1. Move Tracheophyta to Viridiplantae
  2. Move Pteridophyta to Tracheophyta
  3. move Bryopsidophyceae to Ulvophyceae as Bryopsidales
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Thanks for such a detailed post. Its quite likely this will be addressed by the new UK dictionary, which are in the process of beta testing now.

Examining prokaryotes:

These are in the dictionary under Bacteria, without, AFAICT, a way in from the species browser. The other prokaryote domain, Archaea, may be completely absent from the dictionary.

Coverage of prokaryotes is rather thin, presumably reflecting a lack of citizen science observations of them. The greater number of taxa included are filamentous green algae (Cyanobacteria, Nostocales) and root nodule forming taxa (Frankiaceae and Rhizobiaceae), but there’s also Microcystis (a cause of toxic algal blooms in freshwater bodies) and a few others. Pseudomonas is in as a genus, presumably as a plant pathogen (Pseudomonas syringae group, etc.)

The species browser already has a “guild” (Seaweeds) and a “wastebasket taxon” (Worms). I suggest switching Seaweeds to Algae, and including all non-embrophyte photosynthetic groups, i.e. Cyanobacteria, Euglenidae, and Chromista replacing Phaeophycaceae.

You might look into the possibiliity of adding Plant Galls and Plant Diseases as a couple of additional guilds to the root of the species browser, and putting back Other Organisms as a wastebasket taxon to ensure that there’s a way into the taxonomy tree for all organisms. Concomitant with that would be adding more bacterial plant pathogens to the taxonomy database. On the other hand you might take the view that the number of plant disease observations is too small to justify the cost.

Yes, excellent thanks.
I am struggling with Taxonomy - less so in recent hours!
We are probably restricted (or should perhaps restrict ourselves) to the (iSpot’s) NHMs New Dictionary’s Taxonomy.
This can be examined here Species Dictionary | Natural History Museum by testing a single species and looking at the Taxonomic hierarchy
Like here (typically) Green Seaweed - Species Dictionary | Natural History Museum
I think it might be difficult to err from the Root Dictionary’s taxonomy in the NHM site
Three other typical examples (it is hard to find Organisms in Viridiplantae - which is where I came in)
Moss - Species Dictionary | Natural History Museum
Hornwort - Species Dictionary | Natural History Museum
A liverwort - Species Dictionary | Natural History Museum

iSpot’s new Dictionary IS the same as the NHMs one here Species Dictionary | Natural History Museum
This is the one being tested at the moment "in the process of beta testing now"
This means anyone and everyone can test it and report here,
My hope is that it will be linked to annual updates @Chris_Valentine ?

Evaluation would generally be easier if you could navigate down from the root, but I can’t see how to do that with the NHM’s dictionary. It’s got a variety of taxa of ranks varying from variety to subkingdom linked directly into Plantae, plus a number of non-taxonomic categories as well. When I try to go down the tree I’m finding (on the samples I tried) mostly blanks.

I’ve written a set of scripts that takes the CSV they provide and imports it all into the mass of database tables behind iSpot - so we can repeat the same procedure whenever a new version is sent. The crucial thing we need to ensure is that any changes we make after import (especially to the taxonomic groups that are specific to iSpot) are retained because we wouldn’t want to manually make a load of changes each time.

Yes, it seems better to explore iSpot’s own Taxonomy Browser
Thousands of illustrated examples, each with a Taxonomy tree
but is weak with only three Members (sub-kingdoms)

The New-dictionary entry for Plantae has well over 200 (two hundred) Members (clickable Boxes) I cannot link it here But many are spurious like Strawberry seeds or Apple pips.
Think of the fun to come!

Reassuring Chris, thanks

It’s dreadful that NHM have done away with their dictionary, as you could use a link like …nhm…Serpulidae… & get a list of all the species in that family; or could replace that name with another family, or with a genus & get their species lists.

I wonder if you are mistaken
I am using it a lot just now. It has some very ‘interesting’ anomalies but is easy to search
Here’s one
3 pages for Polystichum
all the genera (and one Sub.F.) for Serpulidae
This is the dictionary on which the New iSpot one will be based