DATABASE: Where Turtles Tread

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Science  06 Aug 2004:
Vol. 305, Issue 5685, pp. 759
DOI: 10.1126/science.305.5685.759a

Turtles have been shuffling and paddling around for more than 200 million years, but today many species are dwindling. Created to help conservationists and researchers, the EMYSystem amasses taxonomic and distribution data for the world's 200-plus land and freshwater turtles. (The database excludes marine forms, whose wanderings make it hard to nail down their ranges.)

The site incorporates a mammoth project from herpetologist John Iverson, now at Earlham College in Richmond, Indiana, who compiled every turtle collection record he could gather from colleagues, publications, and the world's museum catalogs. Click on a species such as Madagascar's radiated tortoise (Geochelone radiata) to gather basic taxonomic information and map its occurrence, based on the thousands of collection records. These charts are particularly useful for conservation planning because they indicate each species' historic range, says site co- author Ross Kiester of the U.S. Forest Service in Corvallis, Oregon.

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