The project is supported by:                   
Russian Foundation for Basic Research (grants 98 - 04 - 48524; 00 - 07 - 90304),
St.-Petersburg Scientific Centre of Russian Academy of Sciences (Programme 2002),
and Dr. K. Bauer (Naturhistorisches Museum Wien)

* * * * * * *                                      

WEB-SITE AND DATABASE "FRESHWATER FISHES OF RUSSIA":
A SOURCE OF INFORMATION ON THE CURRENT STATE OF THE FAUNA


Zoological Institute RAS

       The goal of this project is to design and develop an electronic publication, "Freshwater fishes of Russia", on the server of the Zoological Institute of the Russian Academy of Sciences in the form of interactive multimedia information retrieval system.

      There are a number of reasons behind the decision to create this kind of system.

      The primary reason is to synthesize data on the biological diversity of freshwater fishes of the extensive territory of Russia. For almost 100 years the publications by Leo Berg have been the manual for several generations of Russian ichthyologists though the last edition of his "Fishes of fresh waters of USSR and adjacent countries" was published more than 50 years ago (Berg, 1948; 1949). Besides some regional check-lists and reviews (Bogutskaya & Naseka, 1997; Pavlov et al., 1999; Sheiko & Feodorov, 2000; Shed'ko, 2001; Chereshnev et al., 2001; Sideleva, 2001; Slyn'ko et al., 2001), which have been produced recently, no one summarizing monograph has appeared since that time. In Europe outside Russia, the situation is not much better. As it is mentioned by Maurice Kottelat (1997, 1998), the systematics and nomenclature of European freshwater fishes is in a chaotic state without equivalent elsewhere. This author published "An heuristic check-list of freshwater fishes of Europe" but "exclusive of former USSR" (Kottelat, 1997). Almost at the same time the Annotated Check-list of Cyclostomata and Fishes of the Continental Waters of Russia (Annotated check-list, 1998), and then, in 2002, Atlas of Russian Freshwater Fishes in two volumes (Reshetnikov, Ed., 2002) were published. However, these are very preliminary publications with a lot of larger or smaller factual, technical and methodological inaccuracies. So, to update data based on current systematic research and advanced methodology seemed to be the barest necessity.

      Another important reason is to use advanced technology, software and telecommunication resources to allow the data to be presented in various formats (e.g. text, images, and even video).

      The main technical objective was to use advantages of both a database and the Web, which have a lot of characteristics in common. Databases handle large amounts of structured information, can change quickly, have tools to manipulate their data, contain meta-data, are often shared across time and space, contain multiple instances of similarly-structured data, and database data can be selected and displayed in different ways. The Web can manage large amounts of data and has tools to manipulate its data; web data change quickly, need to be selected and displayed in different ways; web pages contain meta-data and are often shared across time and space.

      Integrating the database with a web site makes possible using a database to publish data on the Web, to share data, to keep web pages up to date.

      The availability of the database "Freshwater fishes of Russia" on the server of the Zoological Institute will allow unlimited access to all interested users.

      The present Information System is designed as a digital zoological monograph based upon a data hyperbase using wide potential of hypertext. By the present, our hyperbase consists of two databases, taxonomic and bibliographic ones.

      The core of the taxonomic database consists of one main table with 36 columns. The information deposited in the taxonomic database may be divided into three modules, or blocks: taxonomic (a scientific valid name, nomenclature, synonyms, other names), geographic (ranges and their changes due to dispersal, introductions or extirpation), morphological (diagnoses and descriptions).

      The taxonomic module is the central one within our Information System. It is important to get scientific names right. No one will disagree with this. Information attached to the wrong species is actually misinformation and should rather not be published at all. The question of accuracy of species identification immediately concerns non-indigenous species. In some cases they are poorly known or unknown for locals and even ichthyologists.

      The changing nature of classifications and scientific names makes it almost impossible to know under which species, genus, or even family names one will find pertinent information in the prior accumulated literature or in collections. Scientific names change for several reasons, which makes inventory especially difficult since information about a single taxon may be found under several scientific names. They are the valid name, the senior synonym, junior synonyms, previous combinations (only for species), and misspellings.

      One of the principles of the Information System development is the possibility of quick reflecting changing taxonomic opinions. The main table of the taxonomic database includes a special system of mnemocodes and digital codes (the ZOOCOD system, see Lobanov, Smirnov, 1997) for compiling information for each of these names under a single name, which is considered at the moment to be the valid name. If the taxonomic status of a taxon changes, it is a very simple correction in the system of coding to compile again the entire complex of information but to a new name considered to be valid. Accordingly, the list of genera and species generated from this taxonomic table into the web-site will get a respective change.

      The web-site is under construction in parallel in two languages, English and Russian.

      The main entrance into the nucleus of the site containing the most information is the list of species of Cyclostomata and fishes inhabiting the fresh and brackish water bodies of Russia. True marine forms, rarely or incidentally recorded from fresh or brackish waters, and Caspian marine forms have been excluded. The list comprises 365 species (at least 380 in total, together with undescribed and doubtful ones) belonging to 145-150 genera, 38 families, and 14 orders. It reflects current taxonomy and the phylogenetic species concept applied, and includes all species newly described in the fauna of Russia.

      It should be mentioned here that there are few alike but not similar information products. For example, FISHBASE2000 (Froese, Pauly, 2000) which is now available on-line in the Internet (www.fishbase.org). However, it contains data for all fish species and obviously detailed information can not be provided for each separate species.

      The famous Catalog of Fishes (Eschmeyer, 1998) which is also available now from the web-site of the Californian Academy of Sciences (www.calacademy.org/research/ichthyology). It has some interesting information on the fish systematics. It is one of the best ichthyological sites in the world. But again, the contents and structure of information presented there are principally different from those to be displayed on our site, which is designed as a regional monograph.

      Besides native species, information for species introduced from outside Russia ("exotic" species), both failed and established, are given.

      Data on recent distribution of all species gives an idea of the true scale of fauna transformations due to direct and indirect human impact. To our data, the number of species found out of their historical ranges (non-indigenous species) exceeds 115. This includes intentional introductions, unintentional introductions, incidental releases, natural invasions, invasions induced by unpremeditated introductions, natural dispersal, and so on.

      The contents and structure of the information to be presented on the web-site for each species from the list may be demonstrated today by the example of Pseudorasbora parva, a small invasive cyprinid, now widely spread in Eurasia.

      Data for each species will contain all components traditional for a fish taxonomic review: the valid scientific name and vernacular names, the senior synonym and the original description with comments on nomenclature if necessary; the synonyms and main references; the diagnosis and detailed morphological description (external morphology, sensory lateral line system, vertebral structure, skull, coloration, sexual dimorphism) linked with the species images and illustrations of characters; the description of the range linked with the distribution map.

      The bibliographic database is based on the information retrieval system ZOOBIB. This system was developed in the Zoological Institute by I.S. Smirnov and A.L. Lobanov (1997) within the System of Database Management FoxPro 2.0/2.5. It is rather simple and possesses some advantages. The system possesses a comfortable interface for data insertion which contains three fields of key words (geographic names, general terms and names of taxa); in case of a big number of key words to be inserted, here exists an additional unlimited field for key words; it is very useful in case of check-lists or fauna reviews, when a user needs to insert names of very many taxa, sometimes hundreds of them. The query of references is realized according to a simple request (any one character of the publication, for example, author's name or a part of a word from the title) or a complex request (combination of up to 16 key words). A list of references appears on the screen or is transferred to a printer. Using the ZOOCOD principles discussed above allows a user to get data on an individual specific taxon using any name from a certain number of names applied to this taxon. For example, Phoxinus perenurus, lake minnow, is known in the literature under more than 20 different names which are respectively inserted as key words in the bibliographic database. Using any one from these names, from the valid name to misspellings and typographic errors (Cyprinus perenurus, Phoxinus jelskii, Phoxinus stagnalis, Phoxinus variabilis, Phoxinus altus, Phoxinus sabanejewi, Phoxinus percnurus, Moroco percnurus, Eupallasella percnura, Eupallasella perenurus and others), a user gets information linked to all of them. Besides this, the ZOOCOD principle connects data for taxa of the lower rank with taxa of the higher rank. Querying the database for information on taxa of superspecific level (genus, subfamily, family) a user will get references for both the taxon asked and the taxa included into it. For example, searching references on the Cyprinidae, a user will receive all references for its subfamilies, genera and species too.

      At the moment, the bibliographic database already contains over 7000 records. This is only a small part of its supposed volume. The bibliographic database is planned to be translated into English and available on-line.

      In general, the Information System "Freshwater Fishes of Russia" can be an efficient tool for summarizing data from different areas of theoretical and applied ichthyology, natural resource management and protection.

______________________________________________________________________________________
N.G.Bogutskaya, A.M.Naseka, 2000-2002
Zoological Institute RAS, 2000-2002