Determinations, or “identifications” (IDs), apply taxonomic terms to specimens.  In other words, determinations are not necessarily just taxonomic terms.  Information about taxonomic names (which are used to compose determinations) is in Taxonomy.

A taxonomic determination is comprised of:

  • the taxonomic term, or combination of terms and/or modifiers
  • the name (or names) of the determiner(s)
  • the date of the determination
  • and the nature, or basis of the determination

Arctos maintains a history of determinations for each specimen.  Specimens are therefore reidentified by adding a new determination and retaining prior determination(s) as “unaccepted.” This means that there can be only one accepted determination, but not necessarily that prior identifications are wrong. In fact, complimentary IDs by experts or by alternative methods enhance the value of the specimen.

Scientific Name: There is a distinction between Scientific Name here in determinations, as opposed to Scientific Name as it is used in the taxonomy table. The latter is a term from a table serving as a taxonomic look-up (or authority). Here, it is a character string applied to a specimen by a determiner, though it uses terms from the look-up table to create such strings. Nevertheless, in the simplest and commonest case (Determination Formula= “A”), they are identical. (Some forms display a third related term called Display Name, which is merely a specific formatting of the data in Taxonomy.)  The explanation of Determination Formula (immediately below) is illustrative.

Identification . TAXA_FORMULA
VARCHAR2 (25) not null

Determination Formula:
A determination can contain more than one taxon, possibly in conjunction with modifiers. Taxa are combined with each other, or with modifiers, according to a formula. For example:

Identification.Scientific_Name Formula Taxonomy.Scientific_Name(s)
Sorex cinereus one taxon (A) A = Sorex cinereus
Sorex cinereus ? taxon (A) + “?” A = Sorex cinereus
Sorex cinereus or Sorex ugyunak A “or” B A = Sorex cinereus
B = Sorex ugyunak
Sorex sp. A + “sp.” A= Sorex
Canis latrans x Canis lupus familiaris A “X” B A = Canis latrans
B = Canis lupus familiaris

More formulae are documented in the vocabulary-control table. Bulkloader taxa guidelines are here.

You can pick a formula from the editing screen for determinations.  You do not need to designate a formula for data entry if you intend a simple one-taxon determination (formula “A”), and the bulkloader will recognize and appropriately parse constructions such as “Canis sp.”

“A {string}” Formula

The “A {string}” formula links nonformulaic identifications to taxa, thereby allowing infinite flexibility in applying identifications to specimens (if you can type it in fewer than 255 UTF16 characters, it’s “valid”) while retaining a link to formal taxonomy (e.g., things that have appeared in the reviewed literature) and thereby facilitating the discovery of informal data through formal taxa (including namestrings, “higher taxonomy” and other metadata, relationships, and common names).

The “taxon variables” as used in constructing taxon names exist for the purposes of ordering or formulating complex names, and as such there exist no restrictions on how many ‘A’s can exist for an identification. The following table is illustrative.

Identification Taxa Why
Sorex n. sp. “funnyfeet” Sorex “Working names” (eg, informal identifiers not yet published as formal names) are perhaps the most common usage of the ‘A {string}’ formula
Iron-rich mudstone unidentifiable While non-Linnean taxonomies are possbile in Arctos, they do not exist for all material. In this case, a mineral sample has no formal taxonomy.
Birchbark basket with moosehide lacings Alces alces
Artifact collections identify objects using ethnological terminology, but the items are often made from biological material. Adding linkages to Linnean taxonomy makes the material discoverable by attributes of those taxa. With these linkages, a biologist might locate this item and request subsamples of the (often pre-industrial) biological components.


Identification . Made_By_Agent_id
NUMBER not null (FK)

Determiner: The determiner is the agent (or agents, usually a person) who identified the specimen. More than one agent can be entered. The order in which such co-determiners are displayed is set in the form by the order in which they were added to the determination. To change the displayed order, create a new copy of the determination with the determiners in the desired order, then delete the old record.

Identification . Made_Date
DATE null

Determined Date: ISO8601 date-type. The chronological order of determinations may be the most critical issue.

Identification . Nature_Of_ID
VARCHAR2 (30) not null

Nature of ID: The basis of the identification. Vocabulary is defined in, and controlled by, a code table.

This concept is undergoing modification. Please see Issue 515 for additional guidance.

NUMBER NOT NULL (FK Publication.Publication_ID)

Sensu Publication:
Signifies that a determination is made in the sense of (sensu) a particular publication. This may be used both in the taxonomic sense (“this specimen fits in with Some Author’s concept of Aus bus“) and as supporting documentation (“We’ve determined this to be Aus bus using the methods provided by Some Author”).

Identification . Remarks

Remarks can elaborate or clarify any signficant aspect of a determination.  This is a good place for recording the verbatim form of a Determined Date if it was not recorded as an exact day.

SpecimenSearch contains a dropdown list with the following values. All searches are case-insensitive. Examples are fictitious and incomplete.

  • Current Identification CONTAINS: Substring match of current identification. “Sorex” matches “Sorex” and “Sorex cinereus.”
  • Current Identification IS: Exact string match of current identification. “Sorex” matches only “Sorex,” not “Sorex cinereus.”
  • Current Identification IN LIST: Comme-delimited list-item exact match of current identification. “Sorex cinereus, Sorex monticolus” matches both “Sorex cinereus” and “Sorex monticolus” but not “Sorex yukonicus” or “Sorex.”
  • Current Identification NOT: Exact-match exclusion of current taxonomy. geog=”someplace” + taxon_name=Current Identification NOT “Sorex” + this option returns everything from “someplace” that is not currently identified as “Sorex” – including “Sorex cinereus”
  • Any Identification CONTAINS: Same as Current Identification CONTAINS but includes unaccepted identifications.
  • Any Identification IS: Same as Current Identification IS but includes unaccepted identifications.
  • Any Identification IN LIST: Same as Current Identification IN LIST but includes unaccepted identifications.
  • Any Identification NOT: Same as Current Identification NOT but includes unaccepted identifications.
  • CurrentTaxonomy CONTAINS: Substring match of any taxon term of current ID. “Soricidae” finds “Sorex cinereus” and “Sorex yukonicus.”
  • RelatedTaxonomy CONTAINS: Substring match of any taxon term within one relationship step of current ID. “Apiales” finds “Washingtonia divaricata” even though Apiales is not directly an attributes of Washingtonia divaricata, because Washingtonia divaricata is listed as a synonym of Osmorhiza berteroi, which DOES contain the attribute Apiales (as an Order).
  • CommonName CONTAINS: Substring match of any common name of the current-identification taxon.