Some days ago – well, maybe weeks then – I touched on the usefulness of ZooBank, Catalog of Fishes, and friends. The bigger of them all is, however, GNI, a pronounceable acronym, a component of the GNA (The Global Names Architecture), but unrelated to GNU (GNU’s Not Unix). The Global Names Index is a name aggregator for scientific names of organisms. It contains 12 million names. You will now know why it takes a special category of wizards to practice taxonomy. These gentle people are managing 12 million names, and of course they will love this new toy brought to them by GBIF and EoL. Them, because GNI seems not to have much appeal beyond the professional taxonomist and biodiversity informatician.
GNI is one necessity when trying to build large systems of biological information, because all is indexed against names of organisms. To be sure, specialized systems like FishBase realized this many, many years ago and have systems that are superior within their domain. In the long run, however, a common approach may be the only way to endorse.
GNI is ok to search already now. Try Astyanax kullanderi, a fish you have not heard of before. Does it exist? One chance in 12 million. Enter and be confirmed.
It is there, in uBio, with one NameBank record drawn from Catalogue of Life and ultimately FishBase. It has an LSID there, but this is not the ZooBank LSID. We do not want to be confused, so we make a back click to find two GBIF records, neither georeferenced. It is the holotype, catalogued in NRM 21000 and served by GBIF-Sweden, but also in the GBIF edition of FishBase, which happens to be served also by GBIF-Sweden although the entry says it is served by FishBase Philippines. And at NRM this catalog number refers four paratypes.
Of course this tool is better needed for machine use than for humans to click around in. Or as David Remsen, the architect behind this construction puts it:
GNI was developed because of the central importance of the names of organisms in the management of data about organisms. The primary users of this site are not people, but other machines, so please don’t complain because the site is boring.
As a tool for testing the existence of names, it is already worth being bored a bit. If the result is positive, that is reassuring. If negative, apply the precautionary principle and ask your favorite taxonomist.