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Weekly reading: Introducing DELTA (DEscriptive Language for TAxonomy)

As part of the series on character coding and analysis, we will learn about the software DELTA during this week’s discussion (February 14, 2014). As stated on its website, “[t]he DELTA format (DEscription Language for TAxonomy) is a flexible and powerful method of recording taxonomic descriptions for computer processing”, and “[i]t was adopted as a standard for data exchange by Biodiversity Information Standards (TDWG).”

Major features include: recording taxonomic/phylogenetic characters, automatically generating natural language descriptions, allowing flexible formatting, generating taxonomic/phylogenetic character matrices, generating keys (dichotomous or interactive), integrating multimedia (images, sound files, etc) and supporting multiple languages (Spanish, Chinese, French, etc.). “The Grass Genera of the World” (CABI International: Wallingford) is an impressive example of what DELTA can do. This publication was generated automatically from a DELTA data set, and contains descriptions of about 800 genera and more than 500 characters. For Windows XP and 32-bit Vista users download DELTA here and for users of more recent versions of Windows or Macintosh you can use the Open DELTA.

The best of all – it is FREE!

To prepare for the discussion, please (1) download Open DELTA (or DELTA here for XP or Vista users), (2) download the ‘Sample’ file, and (3) read about the DELTA format. During the discussion, we will discuss the DELTA format, look at an example of Elateriformia and an DELTA data set of the Zelus monograph, run through the Sample file and hopefully try to create and run a simple data set. Everybody will need a laptop or computer.

Some examples of the products generated with DELTA.

Further Readings

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