Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
Integrated Taxonomic Information System
ITIS was originally formed in 1996 as the Interagency Taxonomic Information System, an interagency group within the US federal government, involving agencies from the Department of Commerce to the Smithsonian Institution. It has now become an international body, with Canadian and Mexican government agencies participating, and collaborates with other international agencies.
ITIS aims to produce a complete and accessible database of taxonomic information for every recognised species and other taxa, including both its place in the hierarchical system of scientific classification and references to the authorities on which that placement rests. Its initial emphasis is on North American species but it uses the results of international research. Its data base can be interrogated from the organisation's website.
Biological taxonomy is not fixed, and opinions about the correct status of taxa at all levels, and their correct placement, are constantly revised as a result of new research, and many aspects of classification will always remain a matter of judgement. The ITIS database is updated to take account of new research as it becomes available, and the information it yields is likely to represent a fair consensus of modern taxonomic opinion. Inevitably, however its information cannot be final, and is likely to be more reliable for some groups than others. It should therefore be checked against other sources where these are available, and against the primary research scientific literature where possible.
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