Evidence of Taxonomic Bias in Public Databases: The Example of the Genus Borrelia
Ticks and Tick-Borne Diseases
Pathology, Microbiology and Immunology
The taxon names used in public databases are of critical importance in all areas of biology because they are needed for linking organisms to sequence data and other information. Since most users of taxonomic classifications may be unprepared for dealing with synonyms, the names that are preferred in such databases are of high impact. Using the genus Borrelia as an example, we here show how simplistic approaches for determining the preferred synonym may lead to biases regarding the preferences for taxonomic opinions. We highlight that in this and other cases where genera were split, for reverting to the previous "merged" genus it is neither possible nor necessary to generate validly published and legitimate names that are newer than those that were proposed as new combinations when the genus was split. The policy to always prefer the latest validly published name in a public database may thus render this database oblivious to reversals in taxonomic opinion. We emphasize that users of public databases should be aware of such potential shortcomings, and that curators of databases which provide nomenclatural information should be open-minded about taxonomic views expressed in the literature.
Margos, G., Wormser, G. P., Schwartz, I., Markowicz, M., Henningsson, A. J., Lienhard, R., Stevenson, B., Estrada-Peña, A., Sing, A., Fingerle, V., & Göker, M. (2022). Evidence of Taxonomic Bias in Public Databases: The Example of the Genus Borrelia. Ticks and Tick-Borne Diseases, 13 (5), 101994. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ttbdis.2022.101994