Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History

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Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

The following are FAQs to help you utilize the available online content. If you have additional questions please refer to Contact Us page.

How do I search the database?

There are two main methods of searching/viewing mammalian taxonomic data on the site; 1) Basic or Advanced Search, 2) Taxonomic Browser. Both are available at all times in the main horizontal navigation bar at the top of the page.

Basic Search
The "Basic Search" allows you to enter anything from a scientific name, common name, author's name, year described, original publication citation, type species, type locality, distribution area, comments, status and synonyms. The "Basic Search" will only search for your exact entry in the database fields. Therefore, if you are searching for more than one piece of information at a time such as the author "Shaw" and the year "1792" you should use the "Advanced Search" instead. Otherwise, entering "Shaw 1792", "Shaw, 1792" or "Shaw and 1972" will not return any results.

Advanced Search
The "Advanced Search" appears just below the "Basic Search" on the "Search" page. This feature allows you to refine your search. For example, the scientific name or common name can be searched by "exact name", "containing","starting with" or "ending with." The database can also be searched by a specific taxonomic rank, taxon author and publication year, publication citation, type locality, distribution and photo availability.

Taxonomic Browser
The mammalian taxonomy data on the site can also be viewed through the "Taxonomic Browser." Names are organized in a hierarchy that includes Class, Order, Suborder, Family, Subfamily, Genus, Subgenus, Species and Subspecies.

First select an Order, and then click on the (+) or on a name itself to expand the list, and on the (-) to collapse the list. Navigate your way through the mammalian family tree by expanding and collapsing the menu.

Depending upon the rank, records may include the following fields: scientific name, author's name and year described, original publication citation, common name, type species, type locality, distribution, comments, status, and synonyms.



When will the content be updated?

The state of mammalian taxonomy is constantly changing at a rapid pace. Our staff is working continously to review and update the information internally and will post the updated data on specified publication dates to be announced.

What file formats are available for the download of records?

The unique records can be downloaded as a PDF, Pipe-Delimited Text, or Microsoft Excel file.

Why can't I export a Microsoft Excel file in Internet Explorer?

Currently, Microsoft Excel does not support the Cold Fusion cfcontent tag function, which allows the download of files from the server to the client. A streaming solution is not possible due to security issues for a public Web site. There are two options available: (1) Use Firefox or Safari to export the data into an Microsoft Excel file or (2) Export the data as a "pipe-delimited text file" (.cvs) and import the data into Microsoft Excel by following the directions below.

How do I import a pipe-delimited text file into Microsoft Excel?

Open Microsoft Excel
In the "File" menu, choose "New Workbook"
Select the "Data" menu/tab, choose "Get External Data" and "From Text"
Select the pipe-delimited text file (.cvs) that was downloaded
Choose "Import"
The "Text Import Wizard" will popup with 3 steps
Step 1: Choose the file type "Delimited", choose "Next"
Step 2: In the "Delimiters" menu, check "Other" and enter the pipe "|", choose "Next"
Step 3: Leave the default settings. Choose "Finish"
A popup will appear asking where you want to put the data. Leave the default settings. Choose "OK"

Are the records available for download as ASCII or .CSV files?

The Pipe-Delimited Text file is equivalent to the ASCII or .CSV file. The difference being that commas in the data are replaced by pipes "|" in order to avoid errors in the the export of the data.

What is a "Pipe-Delimited Text" file?

A "Pipe-Delimited Text" file refers to a file where each line of text is a record and the fields are separated by a pipe. A "pipe" is the vertical line symbol: "|" A pipe has been inserted where commas were once used. This replacement is necessary for the data to display correctly.

When I check "Export All Data" not all of my exported data is making it to "Export List."

Only unique records will be added to the Export List. Therefore, if there are any repeated items on your search results they will not be repeated in the Export List.

How many records can I download?

A maximum of 1500 unique records can be exported. If access to the entire dataset is needed, please e-mail DeeAnn Reeder at @

How can I find out if the Smithsonian has a specific specimen?

Once you search for a specific species through the "Search" or "Taxonomic Browser" page, there is a link "View Speciman Record" at the the top of the right column containing the information about the species. This link will take you to the Smithsonian's database of available specimens.

How do I enable JavaScript in my browser?

JavaScript can be enabled through your browser preferences.

Firefox (Mac): Choose "Preferences" from the main menu and in the dialog box select "Content." Check the box next to "Enable JavaScript."

Firefox (PC): Choose "Tools" and then "Options" from the main menu. Select the "Content" tab. Check the box next to "Enable JavaScript."

Safari: Choose "Preferences" from the main menu and in the dialog box select "Security." Check the box next to "Enable JavaScript" under "Web Content."

Internet Explorer: Choose "Tools" and then "Internet Options" from the main menu. Select the "Security" tab. The zone you are viewing should be "Internet." Look in the "Security level for the zone" area.

If you do not have to customize your Internet security settings, click "Default Level", click on "Apply" and then click on "OK." Click the browser "Back" button, navigate to the page you want to view and click "Refresh."

If you have to customize your Internet security settings, click "Custom Level." In the "Internet - Security level for this zone" dialog box, scroll to the "Scripting" section and click "Enable" under "ActiveScripting." Click the browser "Back" button, navigate to the page you want to view and click "Refresh."

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