Project Info

MorphDeBase - Morphological Description Data Base

MorphDeBase is designed as a relational data base for storing morphological descriptions in conjunction with corresponding graphical material. Each description is differentiated based on the perceptual categories of shape, position, color, texture, material composition, the function of the corresponding trait, and the trait's ontogeny. Therewith, the employment of the categories guarantees the standardization of most detailed descriptions on whose basis phylogenetic characters can be inferred. To minimize the occurrence of discrepancies between descriptions of different authors due to different usage of scientific terms, the data base will feature a glossary. Whenever new descriptions are uploaded to the data base, a protocol will check for scientific terms and will send a notification of glossary-definitions of the terms used by the author so that she/he can check and verify or correct whether she/he has used the terms accordingly. Furthermore, the data base will allow for comments on descriptions of others to discuss or complement them and will allow for changing the descriptions while keeping track of the older versions in a history-list. Another feature of the data base is the possibility to relate different descriptions to one another based on primary homology hypotheses: descriptions of identically perceived traits that are supposed to represent identical character states in a corresponding data matrix can be indicated accordingly, therewith representing hypotheses of taxic homology; in the same way descriptions of "the-same-but-different" traits that are supposed to represent different character states of a single character in a corresponding data matrix can be indicated accordingly, therewith representing hypotheses of transformational homology. Relating different descriptions that way will enable the generation of different competing character matrices for numerical phylogenetic tree reconstruction. In this way, MorphDeBase is not only a device for storing standardized morphological descriptions together with their corresponding graphical material, but also a tool to propose and discuss competing putative homology hypotheses. Therewith, MorphDeBase will provide the necessary platform to increase the transparency of the procedure of generating character matrices from descriptions. Moreover, since MorphDeBase will be accessible via an interface on the internet, multiple users can work together on a project no matter where they are, and large amounts of morphological data will become accessible to everybody without charging any fees - all that is needed is a computer and access to the internet.

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Dr. Lars Vogt, Institut fuer Biologie - Zoologie, Berlin