We updated the ALA's taxonomy between Monday 17 February and Thursday 21 February 2020.

The ALA regularly updates its taxonomy from taxonomic directories to ensure that information in the ALA reflects current thinking about the classification of species.

During the update, the ALA data store was inconsistent. This meant that for three to four days, some records were re-processed with the new taxonomy and some were not yet updated.

This did not affect most day-to-day ALA operations, such as searching for records or mapping, since most ALA functions use a prepared index of the data store, optimised for searching. However, if you looked at an individual record you might have found references to classifications not yet updated in the ALA’s main database. During updates like this, we recommend that you wait until the update completes until you access research data.

The update took four days to complete and all ALA applications have returned to being consistent.

What was updated?

The new taxonomy contains a major improvement for certain plant names. Known scientific names for plants not yet placed by the Australian Plant Census have previously been simply placed under the kingdom Plantae. We are now using contextual information supplied by the plant name data to help place these names more accurately in the taxonomic tree. For example, Abroma fastuosa is now correctly placed as a member of Abroma genus in the Malvaceae (Mallow) family, and many wallabies that were in the Macropus genus are now in the Notamacropus genus.

Australian Magpie image uploaded to iNaturalist Australia by leithalb (CC-BY-NC-Int)

Another update that many ALA users may notice is a name change for the Australian Magpie. The scientific name for Australian Magpie used to be Cracticus tibicen, it is now Gymnorhina tibicen. It now sits in its own genus Gymnorhina. The name of the genus is from the Ancient Greek gumnos for “naked” or “bare” and rhisrhinos “nostrils”. More information on Magpie taxonomy is available on the Australian Magpie Wikipedia page and in this article The generic taxonomy of the Australian Magpie and Australo-Papuan butcherbirds is not all black-and-white by Martin Cake (Murdoch University), Andrew Black (South Australian Museum) and Leo Joseph (CSIRO).

We thank the following directories for their ongoing support and expertise:

  • Australian Plant Name Index (APNI)
  • Australian Plant Census (APC)
  • Australian Faunal Directory (AFD)
  • Australian Biological Resources Study (ABRS)
  • Australian Fungi
  • Australian Mosses Online
  • Australian Codes of Aquatic Biota
  • Catalogue of Life
  • New Zealand Organisms Register

Back to ALA Newsletter February 2020