The goal of the Species Interactions of Australia Database (version 1.1) is to build the infrastructure to share, analyze, and display information about species interactions in Australia. It is a joint project of Gerry Cassis, University of New South Wales, and John Pickering, at the University of Georgia and Discover Life. It is funded by the Atlas of Living Australia. Ultimately, we hope the infrastructure will serve the global community to study species interactions worldwide.

Structuring species interaction data

  • Terms We use a controlled vocabulary of hierarchical terms to specify species interactions. Our top-level term is Associate which contains Commensal, Competitor, Consumer, Mutualist, Neutral, and Transmits. Terms have sub-categories separated by colons (e. g., 'Associate:Consumer:Herbivore'). In turn we further divide sub-categories. For example, 'Associate:Consumer:Herbivore:Graminivore' (feeds or subsists on grasses) and 'Associate:Consumer:Herbivore:Granivore' (feeds on seeds) are among our sub-categories of herbivores. We list the terms here in a text file (version 2.1 that now includes appropriate terms from Australian Faunal Directory 'Ecologies' file linked below). This file includes comments (following hash symbols) and synonyms (following semicolons). In processing data we normalise (<--normalize<--Normalize<--NORMALIZE) each synonym to its corresponding category in the hierarchy. Thus, for example, the term 'Granivorous' is a synonym of 'Associate:Consumer:Herbivore:Granivore'. Rather than enforcing a vocabulary on data providers and users, our goal is to use natural language processing to permit them to use numerous other terms such as 'Granivore', 'Seed predator', 'Eats seeds', 'Seed-eater', 'Feeds on seeds', etc.

  • Schema In structuring species interaction data as simply as possible, we assume a one directional schema that allows us to store data efficiently. Our schema requires four fields to describe interactions between entities. These are
    • Subject -- The name of a taxon that interacts, as described by the verb, with an object. For simplicity purposes we define this subject as the ASSOCIATE.
    • Verb -- One of the hierarchical terms above that describes the INTERACTION.
    • Object -- The name of the taxon that is acted upon by the subject. For simplicity purposes we define this object as the HOST.
    • Source -- A URL or unique reference that documents an interaction event. These include globally unique specimen identifiers and the Australian Faunal Directory's taxon pages.
    In addition to the required fields, providers can enrich datasets with any number of additional fields. Thus, users may query associates of hosts or conversely, hosts of associates, by specific taxa, interactions, sources, or additional modifiers that cover space, time, life stage, and phylogeny. When taxa are balanced in their interaction, such as with Mutualist and Neutral interactions, then both taxa are ASSOCIATES of each other and data providers can list either in the Subject or Object fields.

Australian species names

Species interaction datasets

Specimen datasets


  • How to contribute Please help us gather and share photographs and other information on species interactions. If you have information that you wish to contribute, we can process it from various media, including on-line resources, email attachments, CD-ROMs, and other physical media. Alternatively you can upload images, spreadsheets, and other files to an account on our servers that we will provide to you free of charge. These accounts have passwords and can be accessed from Windows, Mac, and Linux machines, via software packages that support ssh/scp. As a provider, you will maintain full ownership of your information, including copyright where appropriate. You can specify the terms and conditions of how we may use your information. If you wish to contribute in any way, please contact us.

  • Whom to contact
    • Australia: Celia Symonds, University of New South Wales -- c.symonds@unsw.edu.au
    • United States: Becka Walcott, Discover Life -- dl@discoverlife.org -- USA-706-542-1115

Computer scripts


Herbivore Coridromius monotocopsis
eats plant Monotoca elliptica


University of New South Wales University of Georgia Discover Life

Updated: 20 June, 2014