Skip to main content

Thank you for visiting You are using a browser version with limited support for CSS. To obtain the best experience, we recommend you use a more up to date browser (or turn off compatibility mode in Internet Explorer). In the meantime, to ensure continued support, we are displaying the site without styles and JavaScript.

Taxonomy must engage with new technologies and evolve to face future challenges

This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution

Access options

Rent or buy this article

Prices vary by article type



Prices may be subject to local taxes which are calculated during checkout


  1. Wilson, E. O. Phil. Trans. R. Soc. B 359, 739 (2004).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  2. Pearson, D. L., Hamilton, A. L. & Erwin, T. L. BioScience 61, 58–63 (2011).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  3. Luoma, J. R. Taxonomy, lacking in prestige, may be nearing a renaissance. The New York Times (10 December 1991);

  4. Ferrari, R. R. Zootaxa 4364, 1–137 (2017).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  5. Orr, M. C., Ascher, J. S., Bai, M., Chesters, D. & Zhu, C.-D. Megataxa 1, 19–27 (2020).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  6. Garnett, S. T. et al. PLoS Biol. 18, e3000736 (2020).

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  7. Williams, P. H. et al. Eur. J. Taxon. 719, 1–120 (2020).

    Google Scholar 

  8. Ärje, J. et al. Methods Ecol. Evol. 11, 922–931 (2020).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  9. Høye, T. T. et al. Preprint at bioRxiv (2020).

  10. Wheeler, Q. D. The New Taxonomy (CRC Press, 2008).

Download references


M.C.O., R.R.F. and C.-D.Z. were mainly supported by grants from the National Science Foundation, China (31625024, 41761144068 and 31772495), and the Key Laboratory of Zoological Systematics and Evolution, Chinese Academy of Sciences (Y229YX5105). Other supports include the Research Fund for International Young Scientists NSFC 31850410464 and the CAS PIFI (2018PB0003 and 2020PB0142 to M.C.O.; 2020PB0130 to R.R.F.; and 2018PB0007 to A.R.); NSFC 31961143002 (to M.B.); and NRF2017NRF-NSFC001-015 (to J.S.A.).

Author information

Authors and Affiliations



C.-D.Z. and M.C.O. conceived the paper. M.C.O. led the writing with primary inputs from R.R.F., A.C.H. and C.-D.Z. M.C.O., R.R.F., A.C.H., J.C., J.S.A., Y.-H.Y., P.H.W., X.Z., M.B., A.R., F.Z., K.-P.M. and C.-D.Z. contributed to multiple drafts and provided substantial inputs overall.

Corresponding authors

Correspondence to Michael C. Orr or Chao-Dong Zhu.

Ethics declarations

Competing interests

The authors declare no competing interests.

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Check for updates. Verify currency and authenticity via CrossMark

Cite this article

Orr, M.C., Ferrari, R.R., Hughes, A.C. et al. Taxonomy must engage with new technologies and evolve to face future challenges. Nat Ecol Evol 5, 3–4 (2021).

Download citation

  • Published:

  • Issue Date:

  • DOI:

This article is cited by


Quick links

Nature Briefing

Sign up for the Nature Briefing newsletter — what matters in science, free to your inbox daily.

Get the most important science stories of the day, free in your inbox. Sign up for Nature Briefing