Species data

What is a species profile?

A species profile is simply a description of the characteristics of a species. Characteristics cover topics such as:

  • morphology
  • behaviour
  • distribution
  • interactions with other species
  • conservation status
  • physical description

A species profile is information about a species that can be generalised to the species as a whole rather than to an observation of an individual member of the species. Profile information includes:

  • morphology
  • life stages
  • behaviour
  • method of reproduction
  • habitat
  • distribution
  • commercial impact
  • conservation status
  • identification

A species profile may be unstructured or structured. Most profiles in the Atlas are unstructured, ie the information is usually in the form of blocks of text extracted from websites and other literature.

Structured profiles, on the other hand, rely on specific vocabularies and defined formats, eg a spreadsheet or database. They may be used to analyse species according to the values of the vocabularies and can be used in conjunction with occurrence data of related species in biodiversity modelling.

Why are there few expert species distributions in the Atlas?

The Atlas displays expert distributions through the spatial portal. We would like to expand the number of expert distributions we have, so we are interested in speaking to anyone who is willing to share expert-authored species distribution information. We would also intend using such polygonal information as a check for outlier records for taxa, hence feeding in to improved data quality.

Why can’t I find a species I know exists?

While the Atlas goes to considerable effort to ensure it knows about all Australian species, there are some circumstances in which the Atlas may not know about a species you are interested in. These include the:

  • species name may have changed
  • species is not listed in any of the sources of the Atlas’s species names, eg it may be newly described, or the name is a manuscript or phrase name
  • spelling used may be different from that officially recognised, though the Atlas tries to include mis-spellings, synonyms and homonyms
  • common name used may not be recognised by the Atlas.

Why are there duplicate species?

The Atlas is bringing together information from many sources and seeks to link together information provided under different scientific names, where these names are considered to be synonyms of a single species. However, many names which should be treated as synonyms are not covered by our data sources.

Why does a species have the wrong name?

Some species in the Atlas are linked to the wrong part of the taxonomic hierarchy and are presented with an incorrect classification, eg:

  • The summary of specimen records shared by the Australian Museum Malacology Collection shows a breakdown of the taxonomic groups for which records are available. The collection holds specimens of molluscs (including chitons, clams, mussels, snails, sea slugs, tusk shells, octopus and squid), but this breakdown includes small numbers of records associated with other groups such as insects (Insecta) and flowering plants (Liliopsidae and Magnoliopsida).
  • The overview of specimen and observation records for the order Lepidoptera (butterflies and moths) includes small numbers of records from data sets for fish, molluscs and plankton, such as the NODC WOD01 Plankton Database and the Academy of Natural Sciences OBIS Mollusc Database.

As there is no source for a complete listing of all species names, the Atlas uses automated tools like the Interim Register of Marine and Non-marine Genera (IRMNG) to construct a best-estimate classification tree. This often creates a tentative association with the appropriate genus, but the association may be incorrect as:

  • taxonomists can use a genus name under the animal code even if there is already a plant genus with the same name, or vice versa. If the Atlas only knows about one of these genera, the association may be mistaken
  • mistakes are sometimes made by taxonomists who may unknowingly use a genus name that has already been used. This invalid name will be replaced, but it may take a long time.

Why doesn’t the Atlas display any pest information?

The Atlas is collaborating with a range of partners such as the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry (DAFF) to obtain high quality pest status information. This information will be added to the Atlas when available.

Why are there so many conservation status classifications?

The Commonwealth and each Australian state and territory has legislation protecting flora and fauna, and each uses its own classifications for conservation status. The Atlas displays all the classifications along with those of the International Union for Conservation.  For more information see  Conservation Status related data sets.

Why do some pages have little data?

Because the Atlas relies on others to provide data it can only display the data it has. As more data is provided, more content will appear on pages.

If you have any data, please share them with the Atlas.

See also:

Can I get a list of endangered species?

A list of conservation species is available at