Toward transparent taxonomy: an interactive web-tool for evaluating competing taxonomic arrangements

Oksana V. Vernygora, Felix A.H. Sperling, Julian R. Dupuis

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Informative and consistent taxonomy above the species level is essential to communication about evolution, biodiversity and conservation, and yet the practice of taxonomy is considered opaque and subjective by non-taxonomist scientists and the public alike. While various proposals have tried to make the basis for the ranking and inclusiveness of taxa more transparent and objective, widespread adoption of these ideas has lagged. Here, we present TaxonomR, an interactive online decision-support tool to evaluate alternative taxonomic classifications. This tool implements an approach that quantifies the criteria commonly used in taxonomic treatments and allows the user to interactively manipulate weightings for different criteria to compare scores for taxonomic groupings under those weights. We use the butterfly taxon Argynnis to demonstrate how different weightings applied to common taxonomic criteria result in fundamentally different genus-level classifications that are predominantly used in different continents and geographic regions. These differences are objectively compared and quantified using TaxonomR to evaluate the kinds of criteria that have been emphasized in earlier classifications, and the nature of the support for current alternative taxonomic arrangements. The main role of TaxonomR is to make taxonomic decisions transparent via an explicit prioritization scheme. TaxonomR is not a prescriptive application. Rather, it aims to be a tool for facilitating our understanding of alternative taxonomic classifications that can, in turn, potentially support global harmony in biodiversity assessments through evidence-based discussion and community-wide resolution of historically entrenched taxonomic tensions.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)181-191
Number of pages11
Issue number2
StatePublished - Apr 2024

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2023 The Authors. Cladistics published by John Wiley & Sons Ltd on behalf of Willi Hennig Society.

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics


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