Texas A&M University Bioinformatics Working Group
The Flowering Plant Gateway


    Biological classification systems are multi-purpose constructs with 'internal' information content in that they chart patterns of affinity and phyletic relationship. Systematists make every effort to develop and refine these systems to insure that the relationships expressed are as close to evolutionary reality as possible. This function - the depiction of lineage relationships - allows the classification system to provide a structural framework that can be used to predict, extrapolate, and explore along paths of symmetry that reflect relative genetic/genomic affinity and distance. This process can be enhanced by 'fleshing out' the systematic framework of a classification system by adding 'layers' of data. The Flowering Plant Gateway is being developed to explore procedures that 'attach' the growing mass of internet data developing for flowering plant families to stable taxonomic structures. The resulting systematic data matrix can be negotiated by anyone seeking information on a given flowering plant family, either with regard to its placement in the Thorne/Cronquist/Takhtajan systems or, via selection of a high-lighted family name, web links to other sources. The 'family search' option also includes access to internet information on non-flowering vascular plant families.

    This project, a product of the Texas A&M University Bioinformatics Working Group, involves the development of computer programs that allow automated, machine-generated HTML page production for each Subclass/Superorder of the Flowering Plants as structured by the Cronquist, Takhtajan, and Thorne Systems of classification. This is accomplished by a PC database program  (output summary from most current run) that attaches data, carried in a suite of data tables, to listed families. These data, indexed by family name, include URLs to various 'content' sites on the World Wide Web. While many of these information sources are isolated 'bits' of information relating to a given family, genus, or species, some are 'high content' centers that carry masses information which is organized in such a way - by family - that incorporation into this system is possible. Development of the 'Gateway' has required interaction with, and cooperation from, individuals at the sites referenced in the index. Their help and assistance, consistent with the academic tradition of open, free information flow, has allowed the system to become a functional, and expanding resource.  Many links to local (Texas A&M) pages were developed in collaboration with John Kartez and the Biota of North America Program

    Data files used to build the Gateway are expanded as new information becomes available. Pages are updated when a significant amount of new material has accumulated. Addition of new WWW pages or items not currently listed can be accomplished by sending the URL to Hugh Wilson. New data files can be created for sites that carry information for multiple families organized by family. This requires transmission, from the source site, of an ASCII text file, with fields delimited by quotes and separated by commas, of the following structure:

                "family","file name","server directory (if more than one)"

with the full URL and a description of the data OR a pointer to files that carry this information. Commercial material and pages that are slow to load will not be posted to the Gateway.

    It should be noted that queries to the links index are always framed as a vascular plant family name, as:

                            http://www.csdl.tamu.edu/FLORA/cgi/gateway_family?fam=Rafflesiaceae

and the system is designed for this form of query.  However, the index will return matching 'documents' (links) for any string query, such as:

                                http://www.csdl.tamu.edu/FLORA/cgi/gateway_family?fam=301

which will yield all refenences to Botany 301 pages.


Return to the Gateway's Home or the TAMU-BWG Homepage.
Last updated on: 15 September 2006