An overview of the history of a taxon name and its current status are critical in taxonomy; and selecting the correct name from among synonyms is commonly important in applied studies. This often onerous task can be facilitated by working with databases that can be used to develop an overview of the number of species within a genus as well as their spatial and temporal distributions and their frequency of use. For example, a quantitative analysis of the use of competing names can inform formal proposals to conserve, protect, or reject names. Currently, palynologists can consult two extensive databases, Palynodata and the John Williams Index of Palaeopalynology, both of which were discontinued, in 2006 and 2015, respectively. As new data accumulates, analyses require augmentation from uncurated online resources such as Google Scholar. Here, we conducted a case study for four Mesozoic genera relevant for example in studying the Triassic–Jurassic transition in the Germanic Basin. The genera contain a total of 65 species. The study compared the output from the two databases of references and an online source for the species inventory over time by analysing more than 2000 citations and their cross-occurrences. We found that the John Williams Index is the most accurate and extensive, but it can only be consulted in person in London. Palynodata, available as a dataset or online, is the more accessible source of information. Our study also shows that no significant difference results from whether one combines the John Williams Index or Palynodata with Google Scholar since using any two of these sources provide a recovery of at least 75% of all citations compared to using all three. In conclusion, each database has its own advantages and disadvantages, and when working under time pressure, the choice of database depends on the research question asked.
Vol. 46 • No. 3
Vol. 46 • No. 3
John Williams Index of Palaeopalynology