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ASM Mammalian Diversity Database

You can find the most current version at

Stateful URI

The URIs are stateful! You can always use the same link to recreate the exact parameters.

Specifically, the URI is a Base-64 encoded query string of what is loaded asynchronously.


has the query string reconstructed from the bit after the hash:

// returns "ursus+arctos&loose=true"

You can generate links that way, corresponding to the options given in the following API section.



Search query parameters

Note: Boolean values are "truthy" in the application; "true", true, and 1 all evaluate to true; "false", false, and 0 all evaluate to false.

  1. q: string The main query, for common names or species.
  2. fuzzy: boolean Use a similar sounding search for results, like SOUNDEX. Note this won't work for authority years or deprecated scientific names. Default false
  3. loose: boolean Don't check for strict matches, allow partials and case-insensitivity Application default true; API default false
  4. global_search: boolean Check all non-boolean columns for the search string simultaneously. Default false
  5. only: string restrict search to this csv column list. Return an error if invalid column specified.
  6. include: string Include additional search columns in this csv list. Return an error if invalid column specified.
  7. type: string restrict search to this major_type. Literal scientific match only. Return an error if the type does not exist. Default null
  8. filter: json restrict search by this list of {"column":"value"} object list. Requires key "BOOLEAN_TYPE" set to either "AND" or "OR". Return an error if the key does not exist, or if an unknown column is specified. This should be supplied as a URL-encoded JSON string (eg, %7B%22species_authority%22:%22neill%22,%22boolean_type%22:%22and%22%7D) or a Base64-encoded string (eg, eyJzcGVjaWVzX2F1dGhvcml0eSI6Im5laWxsIiwiYm9vbGVhbl90eXBlIjoiYW5kIn0), where both examples represent {"species_authority":"neill","boolean_type":"and"}. Default null
  9. limit: int Search result return limit. Default unlimited
  10. order: string A csv list of columns to order by. Defaults to genus, species, subspecies
  11. dwc_only: boolean Return only DarwinCore terminology. Otherwise, the DarwinCore terminology is in each taxon result under the key dwc. Default false

API return

The JSON result gives the following parameters:

  1. status: boolean true or false. true is returned on an good search, regardless of hits.

  2. (false status only) error: A technical error message

  3. (false status only) human_error: A message to display to users.

  4. (bad parameters only) given: The provided parameters.

  5. (bad filter only) columns: The provided column list.

  6. (bad filter only) bad_coulmn: The invalid column.

  7. result: An object containing one taxon per numeric key, which itself contains:

    id # internal counter
    deprecated_scientific # Object, eg {"Genus species":"Authority:Year"}
    simple_linnean_group #eg, prototheria, metatheria, eutheria. Ranked "cohort"
    major_type # eg, boreoeutheria, atlantogenata. Ranked "magnaorder"
    major_subtype # eg afrotheria, euarchotoglires. Ranked "superorder"
    simple_linnean_subgroup # eg, rodent, bat, etc. ~ ranked
    linnean_family # eg, chiroptera, lagomorph. Ranked "family"
    linnean_order # Ranked "order"
    genus_authority #  eg, "Linnaeus"
    species_authority # eg, "Attenborough"
    authority_year # eg, {2013:2014} in the format {"Genus Authority Year":"Species Authority Year"}
    parens_auth_genus # If the genus authority should be in a parenthetical
    parens_auth_species # If the species authority should be in a parenthetical
    notes # Miscellaneous notes for the taxon
    entry # The long-form entry for the taxon
    internal_id # The internal ASM number for the taxon
    source # The primary data source for the entry
    citation # Citation for the taxon
    image # Path to an image, relative to, if it exists
    taxon_author # Last edited by ...
    taxon_credit # The credit for the taxon
    taxon_credit_date # The credit edit date
    dwc # All the DarwinCore terms for the taxon

    If the dwc_only flag is set, only the contents of the key dwc are returned per taxon.

    A sample DarwinCore-formatted response (either as a subkey dwc or the replacement with dwc_only)might look like

      "scientificName": "Diceros bicornis",
      "subspecificEpithet": "",
      "order": "perissodactyla",
      "specificEpithet": "bicornis",
      "genus": "diceros",
      "vernacularName": "Black Rhinoceros",
      "family": "rhinocerotidae",
      "namePublishedIn": "",
      "higherClassification": {
        "cohort": "eutheria",
        "magnaorder": "boreoeutheria",
        "superorder": "laurasiatheria",
        "list": "eutheria|boreoeutheria|laurasiatheria"
      "scientificNameAuthorship": {
        "genus": "",
        "species": "(Linnaeus, 1758)"
      "taxonRank": "species",
      "class": "mammalia",
      "taxonomicStatus": "accepted",
      "dcterms:bibliographicCitation": "Diceros bicornis (ASM Species Account Database #6557) fetched 2017-03-17T15:48:30-0700"
  8. count: The number of results

  9. method: The way the search was executed

  10. query: The requested search

  11. params: The checked matches

  12. query_params: A breakdown of your computed query

    1. bool: The used boolean_type
    2. loose: boolean true or false
    3. fuzzy: boolean true or false
    4. order_by: The way the results are sorted
    5. filter: An object representing any applied filters
      1. had_filter: boolean true or false
      2. filter_params: The used filter parameters
      3. filter_literal: The provided filter in the query
  13. execution_time: The time to execute your query and return your result, in ms.

Please note that all entries are returned in lower case, except for result.[taxon].notes, result[taxon].entry, result[taxon].taxon_credit, and result.[taxon].image (where an image exists and the path includes mixed case).

As the rest of the data have strict formatting requirements, all other formatting is left up to the application to correctly apply CSS styles to generate the desired case.

Search behaviour

Please note that the example JSON results may not have all of the fields or data in the result key of the most recent version. There will be no compatability breaking. All the correct fields are listed above.

The search algorithm behaves as follows:

  1. If the search is_numeric(), a loose search is done against the authority_year column in the database. The returned method with the JSON is authority_year. Example:

    {"status":true,"result":{"0":{"scientificName":"Ursus arctos","subspecificEpithet":"","specificEpithet":"arctos","vernacularName":"brown bear","namePublishedIn":"","higherClassification":{"magnaorder":"foobar","cohort":"eutheria","list":"foobar|eutheria"},"scientificNameAuthorship":{"genus":"test, 2017","species":"linnaeus, 1758"},"taxonRank":"species","taxonomicStatus":"accepted","dcterms:bibliographicCitation":"Ursus arctos (ASM Species Account Database #41688) fetched 2017-03-17T14:33:11-0700"}},"count":1,"method":"year_search","query":"1758","params":{"authority_year":"1758"},"query_params":{"bool":false,"loose":true,"fuzzy":false,"order_by":"genus,species,subspecies,common_name","filter":{"had_filter":false,"filter_params":null,"filter_literal":null}},"do_client_update":false,"execution_time":9.9999904632568}
  2. The search is then checked for the absence of the space character. If no overrides are set, common_name, genus, species, subspecies, major_common_type, major_subtype, and deprecated_scientific columns are all searched. The returned method is spaceless_search. Example:

    {"status":true,"result":{"0":{"scientificName":"Alces alces","subspecificEpithet":"","specificEpithet":"alces","vernacularName":"Moose","namePublishedIn":"","higherClassification":{"cohort":"eutheria","list":"eutheria"},"scientificNameAuthorship":{"genus":"","species":"(Linnaeus, 1758)"},"taxonRank":"species","taxonomicStatus":"accepted","dcterms:bibliographicCitation":"Alces alces (ASM Species Account Database #41782) fetched 2017-03-17T14:34:57-0700"}},"count":1,"method":"spaceless_search_direct","query":"moose","params":{"common_name":"moose","genus":"moose","species":"moose","subspecies":"moose","major_type":"moose","major_subtype":"moose","deprecated_scientific":"moose"},"query_params":{"bool":"OR","loose":true,"fuzzy":false,"order_by":"genus,species,subspecies,common_name","filter":{"had_filter":false,"filter_params":null,"filter_literal":null}},"do_client_update":false,"execution_time":2.500057220459}
  3. The search is then checked for spaces.

    1. If a filter is set (with the required boolean_type parameter):

      1. If there is two or three words, the first word is checked against the genus column, second against the species column, and third against the subspecies column. The returned method is scientific. Example

        {"status":true,"result":{"0":{"scientificName":"Ursus arctos","subspecificEpithet":"","specificEpithet":"arctos","vernacularName":"brown bear","namePublishedIn":"","higherClassification":{"magnaorder":"foobar","cohort":"eutheria","list":"foobar|eutheria"},"scientificNameAuthorship":{"genus":"test, 2017","species":"linnaeus, 1758"},"taxonRank":"species","taxonomicStatus":"accepted","dcterms:bibliographicCitation":"Ursus arctos (ASM Species Account Database #41688) fetched 2017-03-17T14:39:19-0700"}},"count":1,"method":"scientific","query":"ursus arctos","params":{"species_authority":"linnaeus"},"query_params":{"bool":"AND","loose":true,"fuzzy":false,"order_by":"genus,species,subspecies,common_name","filter":{"had_filter":true,"filter_params":{"species_authority":"linnaeus","boolean_type":"and"},"filter_literal":"{\"species_authority\":\"linnaeus\",\"boolean_type\":\"and\"}"}},"do_client_update":false,"execution_time":12.006044387817}
      2. If the above returns no results, the deprecated_scientific column is checked. At the time of this writing, there are no entries in this column and this check will always fail. The returned method is deprecated_scientific.

      3. If the above returns no results, the common_name column is checked. The returned method is no_scientific_common. Example:

        {"status":true,"result":{"0":{"scientificName":"Ursus arctos","subspecificEpithet":"","specificEpithet":"arctos","vernacularName":"brown bear","namePublishedIn":"","higherClassification":{"magnaorder":"foobar","cohort":"eutheria","list":"foobar|eutheria"},"scientificNameAuthorship":{"genus":"test, 2017","species":"linnaeus, 1758"},"taxonRank":"species","taxonomicStatus":"accepted","dcterms:bibliographicCitation":"Ursus arctos (ASM Species Account Database #41688) fetched 2017-03-17T14:41:53-0700"}},"count":1,"method":"no_scientific_common","query":"brown bear","params":{"species_authority":"linnaeus"},"query_params":{"bool":"AND","loose":true,"fuzzy":false,"order_by":"genus,species,subspecies,common_name","filter":{"had_filter":true,"filter_params":{"species_authority":"linnaeus","boolean_type":"and"},"filter_literal":"{\"species_authority\":\"linnaeus\",\"boolean_type\":\"and\"}"}},"do_client_update":false,"execution_time":33.500909805298}
    2. If the filter parameter isn't specified, the above scientific and deprecated scientific searches are executed with "best-guess" boolean types (with returned methods scientific_raw and deprecated_scientific_raw). Example:

      {"status":true,"result":{"0":{"scientificName":"Panthera tigris","subspecificEpithet":"","specificEpithet":"tigris","vernacularName":"Tiger","namePublishedIn":"","higherClassification":{"cohort":"eutheria","list":"eutheria"},"scientificNameAuthorship":{"genus":"","species":"(Linnaeus, 1758)"},"taxonRank":"species","taxonomicStatus":"accepted","dcterms:bibliographicCitation":"Panthera tigris (ASM Species Account Database #15955) fetched 2017-03-17T14:43:49-0700"}},"count":1,"method":"space_common_fallback","query":"pathera tigris","params":{"genus":"pathera","species":"tigris","common_name":"patheratigris"},"query_params":{"bool":"or","loose":true,"fuzzy":false,"order_by":"genus,species,subspecies,common_name","filter":{"had_filter":false,"filter_params":null,"filter_literal":null}},"do_client_update":false,"execution_time":37.499189376831}
      1. If all these fail, and fuzzy is false, the fallback flag is set and a search is done against common_name. The returned method is space_common_fallback. Example:

        {"status":true,"result":{"0":{"scientificName":"Ursus arctos","subspecificEpithet":"","specificEpithet":"arctos","vernacularName":"brown bear","namePublishedIn":"","higherClassification":{"magnaorder":"foobar","cohort":"eutheria","list":"foobar|eutheria"},"scientificNameAuthorship":{"genus":"test, 2017","species":"linnaeus, 1758"},"taxonRank":"species","taxonomicStatus":"accepted","dcterms:bibliographicCitation":"Ursus arctos (ASM Species Account Database #41688) fetched 2017-03-17T14:44:56-0700"}},"count":1,"method":"space_common_fallback","query":"brown bear","params":{"genus":"brown","species":"bear","common_name":"brownbear"},"query_params":{"bool":"or","loose":true,"fuzzy":false,"order_by":"genus,species,subspecies,common_name","filter":{"had_filter":false,"filter_params":null,"filter_literal":null}},"do_client_update":false,"execution_time":64.501047134399}
    3. If the fuzzy flag is set, or the above still gives no results and the loose flag is set, a search is done word-wise on common_name, major_common_type, and major_subtype (eg, for all matches that contain each word as a substring in any of the columns). The returned method is space_loose_fallback. Example

Other API functions

Random Taxon

Parameter Value Required
random true true
require_image bool false

A hit with the argument random=true will return a random taxon, eg:



Note that the simple (species) and DarwinCore (specificEpithet) values are both returned.

If the flag require_image is set to a truthy value, the returned taxon will be guaranteed to have a Mammal Images Library, iNaturalist, or Calphotos image associated with the taxon. However, the image is not parsed. For example:



Note that since several external services may be hit multiple times, the execution time is significantly longer when requiring images.

Unique Datapoints

Parameter Value Required
get_unique true true
col string true

Fetches all distinct entries for a given database column col under the key values for a successful status. For example:



Ordered Taxonomy

Parameter Value Required
get_unique true true
col string true


Direct Queries

Parameter Value Required
action query true
sql_query Base64-encoded string true
dwc bool

Allows certain direct queries against the database. On, security is enforced by a separate low-privilege user executing these queries; however, a separate regex layer level of security exists as well.

Only fairly basic SELECT queries (and a few specific exceptions such as SHOW COLUMNS) are permitted. Programatically, a PDO query is constructed with each column pre-checked for existence separately prior to execution (generating a fatal error on failure). Backticks are optional on column names.

If the flag dwc is specified, only DarwinCore terms will be returned. The default is to return both DarwinCore and internal structure.


SELECT * FROM `mammal_diversity_database` where `genus`='canis' and species='lupus';



returning the reuslt

{"status":true,"statements":{"0":{"result":{"0":{"id":410,"species_authority":"Linnaeus","canonical_sciname":"Canis lupus","image":"","notes":"","authority_year":"{\"1758\":1758}","parens_auth_genus":0,"internal_id":3746,"major_type":"","genus":"canis","taxon_author":"","parens_auth_species":0,"genus_authority":"Linnaeus","deprecated_scientific":"","subspecies":"","simple_linnean_group":"eutheria","linnean_order":"carnivora","source":"iucn","species":"lupus","taxon_credit":"","taxon_credit_date":"","common_name":"Gray Wolf","major_subtype":"","linnean_family":"canidae","simple_linnean_subgroup":"true dogs","citation":null,"image_credit":null,"image_license":null,"entry":null,"common_name_source":"iucn","image_caption":null,"species_authority_citation":null,"genus_authority_citation":null,"dwc":{"scientificName":"Canis lupus","genus":"canis","subspecificEpithet":"","order":"carnivora","specificEpithet":"lupus","vernacularName":"Gray Wolf","family":"canidae","namePublishedIn":null,"higherClassification":{"cohort":"eutheria","list":"eutheria"},"scientificNameAuthorship":{"genus":"Linnaeus, 1758","species":"Linnaeus, 1758"},"taxonRank":"species","class":"mammalia","taxonomicStatus":"accepted","dcterms:bibliographicCitation":"Canis lupus (ASM Species Account Database #3746) fetched 2017-06-14T23:15:43+0000","dcterms:language":"en","dcterms:modified":"2017-06-14T23:15:43+0000","dcterms:license":"https:\/\/\/licenses\/by-nc\/4.0\/legalcode"}}},"action":"SELECT","query":{"where":" WHERE (`genus`= ?  AND `species`= ? )","values":{"0":"canis","1":"lupus"},"full_query":"SELECT * FROM `mammal_diversity_database` WHERE (`genus`= ?  AND `species`= ? )","used_statement":"SELECT * FROM `mammal_diversity_database` where `genus`='canis' and species='lupus';"}}},"statement_count":1,"provided":"SELECT * FROM `mammal_diversity_database` where `genus`='canis' and species='lupus';","execution_time":0.786066055298}

Old scientific names

Old scientific names are to be stored in the field Deprecated Scientific Names. This field has a rigid required structure. They're written as a JSON entry with special requirements (and no braces).

Therefore, each deprecated scientific name is to be written as "Genus species":"Authority: YYYY", with an arbitrarily long list of those separated by commas. Therefore, be cognizant of the following rules:

  • There should be no space between colons or commas. E.g., "foo":"bar" and "foo:bar","bar":"baz" is OK, but not "foo" :"bar","bar":"baz" or "foo":"bar", "bar":"baz".

  • The "Authority: YEAR" string is optional in the space around the colon. The year has to match the rule

    ^\d{4}$|^\d{4} (\"|')\d{4}(\"|')$
  • The validity of the taxon information is not checked.

Reporting bugs

Please use the issue tracker here to report all bugs.

If you find a security bug, please practice responsible disclosure! Email with the issue. The administrative page uses a fork of tigerhawkvok/php-userhandler, As appropriate, report bugs or offer pull requests on the right branch.

Building the application


This writeup assumes you have access to a Linux-like environment. If you run Windows, set up Bash on Ubuntu on Windows (WSL) for best results.

Your life will also be a lot easier if you have Homebrew or LinuxBrew installed.

Build dependencies

  • Yarn You can install Yarn by running brew install yarn
  • Grunt. You can install Grunt from the command line by running yarn global add grunt-cli.
  • Recommended: Coffeescript and Less. They're included locally but often behave better globally via yarn global add coffee-script less
  • Run yarn install to install local dependencies.

Deploy dependencies

  • Blackbox You can install Blackbox by runing brew install blackbox


You can update the whole application, with dependencies, by running grunt build at the root directory.

If you don't need to update dependencies, just run grunt qbuild.


Configuration Files

If you're part of the project, your PGP public key should already be registered in the application. If you need to make changes, do:

blackbox_edit_start PATH/TO/FILE.ext.gpg
# Edit your file
blackbox_edit_end PATH/TO/FILE.ext

The two primary configuration files are CONFIG.php.gpg and admin/CONFIG.php.gpg.


Install this in the root directory of the site. If this is to be located elsewhere, change the variable searchParams.targetApi in /coffee/ and recompile the coffeescript.

You can re-prepare the files by running grunt compile at the root directory.

Setting up the database

Please see the documentation in the meta/ directory.


You can access the administration / editing interface by logging in at

If you create a user, an exisiting superuser will need to authorize your access. You will not be able to log in or access the admin interface until this occurs.

If you log in to another device / location, all other session credentials will be invalidated. This occurs at the authentication level, and may require a re-login if your network location changes.

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