Documentation for the automated taxobox system

Taxonomy templates

Taxobox templates

Introduction to the automated taxobox system

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Articles about organisms have a special kind of infobox called a "taxobox". Taxoboxes display the "taxonomic hierarchy". ("Taxon" is a general term for a named group of organisms, such as a subspecies, a species, a family, an order, etc.) The taxonomic hierarchy shows the location of the taxon within a particular classification system; e.g. for a genus, it may show its family, order, etc. up to kingdom.

The taxonomic hierarchy in a taxobox can be created manually by using the {{Taxobox}} template. Each manual taxobox must specify the complete taxonomic hierarchy to be displayed. However, this results in a great deal of redundancy.  2020 වන විට, there were more than 80 articles on the species of Mammillaria. Using the manual Taxobox template means that it has to be repeated over 80 times that the genus Mammillaria is in the family Cactaceae, which is in the order Caryophyllales, and so on up to Kingdom Plantae. Any one of the more than 80 articles could easily have a taxobox which was inconsistent with the others.

The automated taxobox system is a set of templates plus some Lua code which between them automatically generate the taxonomic hierarchy for a taxon. Thus knowing that Mammillaria lasiacantha is in the genus Mammillaria, the system can work out and display the complete hierarchy, from species up to kingdom. It can do the same for taxa at all ranks, including those below species.

(Its advantages and disadvantages are described in more detail below.)

There are two parts to the system.

  1. Taxonomy templates, which act like a database, storing taxonomic hierarchies. Taxonomy templates don't produce any visible output by themselves. They simply store information.
  2. Automated taxobox templates (autotaxobox templates), which display a visible taxobox, complete with a taxonomic hierarchy automatically created from the taxonomy templates.

Taxonomy templates

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The taxonomy templates are pages with titles of the general form "Template:Taxonomy/taxon" where taxon represents the name of the taxon. To show that a plant genus with the nonsense name Junkia is in the family Junkiaceae, you would create a page with the title "Template:Taxonomy/Junkia". When finished, the page would look something like this:

{{Don't edit this line {{{machine code|}}}
|rank=genus
|link=Junkia
|parent=Junkiaceae
|...
}}

The first line never changes. The rest says that Junkia (the last part of the name of the page) has the taxonomic rank "genus". When displayed in a taxobox, the word "Junkia" should link to the page with the title "Junkia". The parent taxon of "Junkia" is "Junkiaceae". Then to connect up Junkiaceae, you would need to create a page with the title "Template:Taxonomy/Junkiaceae" which gave the rank, link and parent of Junkiaceae. This process would be continued until you found that the relevant template already existed.

A large number of taxonomy templates have already been created, so that for a real genus it's likely that the relevant templates are already there, or at most the genus template needs to be created.

Automated taxobox templates

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The automated taxobox templates use the taxonomy templates to show a taxonomic hierarchy in a taxobox.  2018 වන විට, there were eight top-level display templates, including:

  1. Template:Automatic taxobox is used for taxa at ranks above species.
  2. Template:Speciesbox is used for species. Species don't normally need to be connected to their parent genus via their own taxonomy templates because the genus name is part of the name of the species, so the system doesn't normally need to be told the parent of a species. Hence there aren't usually any templates with names of the form "Template:Taxonomy/genus species" and species and lower ranks need to be handled a little differently from higher ranked taxa.
  3. Template:Subspeciesbox is used for subspecies whose names are governed by the zoological code (ICZN). This provides for three-part names (trinomials) without a "connecting term" (e.g. Junkia communis communis).
  4. Template:Infraspeciesbox is used for ranks below species (e.g. subspecies, varieties) whose names are governed by the botanical code (ICNafp). This provides for three-part names with a connecting term (e.g. Junkia communis subsp. communis or Junkia communis var. communis).
  5. Template:Hybridbox is used for animals that are hybrids within the same genus, so have scientific names of the form Panthera tigris × P. leo. (Plant hybrids are usually given a single nothospecific epithet, so Speciesbox can be used).
  6. Template:Virusbox is used instead of the other templates for all virus taxa.

These templates are alternatives to the manual Taxobox template, and require less information. Thus, provided that the taxonomy templates already existed, an article whose title was Felis and which was about the animal genus Felis could use a template like the following:

Felis
විද්‍යාත්මක වර්ගීකරණය  
රාජධානිය: Animalia
වංශය: Chordata
වර්ගය: Mammalia
ගෝත්‍රය: Carnivora
කුලය: Felidae
උපකුලය: Felinae
Genus: Felis
{{Automatic taxobox
| taxon = Felis
}}

which generates the taxobox shown on the right.

Notice how the ranks above the specified "target taxon", the genus Felis, have been supplied automatically in the taxobox, using the taxonomy templates.[1]

In a real use, other parameters would also be needed, e.g. to supply an image and a caption for it, or to supply an authority for the genus name.

For a species, such as Felis chaus, a template like this could be used:

Automated taxobox system/intro
විද්‍යාත්මක වර්ගීකරණය  
රාජධානිය: Animalia
වංශය: Chordata
වර්ගය: Mammalia
ගෝත්‍රය: Carnivora
කුලය: Felidae
Genus: Felis
විශේෂය: F. chaus
ද්වීපද නාමය
Felis chaus
{{Speciesbox
| taxon = Felis chaus
}}

which generates the taxobox shown on the right.

Why use the system?

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The benefits of the automated taxobox system are as follows:

  • Less research is required when adding a taxobox to an article. Usually only one or two taxa will need to be researched, since an automated taxobox pulls already existing information about the upper-level taxa from its database.
  • When a taxonomic revision occurs (which happens all the time), the taxoboxes for all members of the affected taxa (provided they are using an automated taxobox already) are updated automatically with as little as a single edit.
  • Out-of-date taxonomies on Wikipedia articles using automated taxoboxes are less likely.
  • Taxonomies can be normalized more easily across a given Wikipedia.
  • Vandals not familiar with automated taxoboxes are less likely to disrupt fully transcluded taxonomies.
  • Category:Automatic taxobox cleanup and other tracking categories automatically track several types of error, making structural vandalism and misguided editing easy to track down.
  • The code takes up less space in the editing window, making it easier to find the head of an article.

There are some costs:

  • There's a minor increase in the time taken for a page to save due to the larger amount of data being processed in generating the taxobox.
  • Timely vandalism spotting is more difficult because few people watch any given taxonomy template.
  • Vandalism is more exposed across Wikipedia due to transclusions of taxonomy templates.
  • Editors who wish to edit the taxonomy may be discouraged by the steeper learning curve.
  • Representing special cases requires more detailed knowledge of the system.

If you want to use the automated taxobox system, there's a lot of documentation available. Many more facilities exist than are discussed here.

  • WP:Automated taxobox system is the main resource; it starts with a table of contents, linking to explanations of how to create and use the various parts of the system.
  • All virus taxa are handled by {{Virusbox}}; all the other automated taxobox templates are only used for non-virus taxa.
  • {{Speciesbox/doc}} explains how to create taxoboxes for species.
  • {{Automatic taxobox/doc}} explains how to create taxoboxes for ranks above species (and special cases).
  • {{Subspeciesbox/doc}} and {{Infraspeciesbox/doc}} explain how to create taxoboxes for ranks below species (e.g. subspecies). The first is for animals, the second for plants (names regulated by the botanical code).
  • {{Hybridbox/doc}} explains how to create taxoboxes for animal hybrids within the same genus.
  1. ^ If the Automatic taxobox template is placed on the page whose title is exactly "Felis", then even the taxon = line can be omitted, as the name of the taxon will be picked up from the title of the page. However, this practice is deprecated. Specifying the taxon parameter documents the taxobox and ensures that it remains correct if the page is moved.