Nannotax - User guide

There is a lot of information on a Nannotax page so it is worth taking a look at how it is organised. The screenshot show a typical page:
This user guide has now been updated (March 2019).


taxon name - Nannotax is almost entirely taxonomically arranged and there is one page per taxon.

related taxa links - As on most taxonomy websites there is a trail of links from the top of the taxonomy down to the current taxon. As a bonus there is also a list of sister taxa, this means you can e.g. browse through the genera in a family, without having to go backwards and forwards to the family page.

table of daughter taxa these tables are a key part of the site, providing overviews of each taxon. In the example shown the family, Prinsiaceae, consists of five genera, Futyania, Hornibrookina, Neobiscutum, Prinsius and Toweius. The table lists these together with their diagnoses and a row of representative images (initially these were randomly selected images but now they are mostly selected good images to represent the taxa). NB On species pages this table is replaced by a grid of images. Metadata about the images is available from the species pages but not from the tables of daughter taxa. There are ca. 800 taxon tables on the site.

information about the taxon - below the table there is a panel of information about the taxon. The amount of data present varies greatly between taxa and is being expanded as we edit the site. Don't forget to take a look at this section - especially if you are exploring the taxonomy.

range data - a text summary of the range data held in the database, with sources.

range diagram - a graphical plot of range data. For higher taxa this a plot of the ranges of the sub-taxa. On species pages there is also a plot of occurrence frequency data from the Neptune database.

references - A list of references cited on the page, the full reference list is available from the tools menu. The GS links after each reference open a Google Scholar search based on the title of the reference. This will usually provide links to the journal website and often to PDFs of the article.

citation information - advice on the shortest and most stable way to link to the page and on how to cite it.

comments - Users can add comments, requests or criticisms to any page, please do try this out!



menu bar - this appears at the top of every page and provides the links to change between the modules dealing with Living and Cenozoic nannofossils, Mesozoic nanofossils and the Farinacci Catalog of original descriptions. The dropdown menus at either end access extra pages: "About Nannotax" - pages about the site; "Comments" - a discussion page and a listing of recent comments; "Tools" - search page, geological filtering controls, bibliography, glossary, zonation charts.

quick search - this search box is a convenient link to the taxon search page. You do not need to enter the full name to run a search. Also if there is only one match in the current module the search will take you direct to the page.

Distinguishing features - the diagnosis for the taxon is given at the top of the page as well as in the main taxon information panel. Remember though that the diagnoses here are essentially designed to discriminate a taxon from its siblings, they are not stand-alone descriptions.

list of grand-daughter taxa -This list extends the information given on the daughter species, it is especially valuable for expert users who can use it to jump rapidly through the taxonomy.

tags and metrics - these are used for the advanced search and are described in more detail on the Tags and Advanced Search page

taxon search - The search box allows a search for taxa by name without first navigating to the search page. Search will work on a fragment of a name - e.g. "minut" will find minutus, minuta, and minutula - this is usually the best way to search. The Search page can also be accessed from the Tools menu.

translation - Google translate has been enabled on the site so the text can now be viewed in almost any language. This works reasonably well since the text is mostly factual descriptions rather than complex conceptual discussions. It is possible to suggest improvements to the translations.


Geological filtering - A separate "Preferences and Time control" page (accessed from the Tools menu) allows users to select an interval of geological time to focus on. Taxa within the selected interval are coloured blue while those outside the selected time period appear in olive green. This can be very useful if you are only interested in e.g. living coccolithophores, or fossils from a specific time interval. You can also set a preference to have the taxa sorted so that taxa within the time interval appear at the top of lists.

On the figure above the time range is set to 56-62Ma, the Late and Middle Paleocene. Taxa which occur within this interval are listed in blue, taxa which do not occur in this interval are listed in olive green.

Geological ranges of taxa are reported in a form such as:
- Last occurrence (top): NN10 (8.29Ma). Data source: Raffi et al 1998
- First occurrence (base): NN8 (10.89Ma). Data source: Perch Nielsen 1985
What this means is that Raffi et al. (1998) reported the last occurrence as occurring within nannofossil zone NN10 and the age of the TOP of this interval is 8.29Ma according to the look-up table used on the website (from GTS2012). Also Perch Nielsen (1985) reported the first occurrence as occurring within nannofossil zone NN8 and the age of the BASE of this interval is 10.89Ma. If the first occurrence is quoted as occurring within e.g. the Eocene then this means is might occur at anytime within the Eocene (i.e. from 34 to 56Ma). If an event has been calibrated as occuring at a particular level within a zone then this is recorded in the database as e.g. 25% up through the zone and converted into an Ma age when needed based on the timescale in use. At present we use GTS2012.

Range diagrams - all taxon pages now also have diagrams summarising stratigraphic ranges. On species pages these provide a plot of the literature range as given on this site and a plot of Neptune occurrence data, if available. On higher taxon pages the plots give the literature ranges of all the daughter taxa. The convetions used in these plots are explaned on the diagrgram below

range bars



On species pages the display is slightly different, the table of daughter taxa is replaced by a grid of images. Also when the images on the species pages are seen full size (click on them) image data is displayed below the image. Key information given here includes the source of an image - usually a publication - sample reference number, sample location, and geological age of the sample. Also the original identification in the publication is given, which in some cases is different to the assignment made here. The file name usually also includes the plate and image number from the original publication.

Farinacci catalog links: If the original description of the species (or its synonyms) are included in the Farinacci catalog then there will be links to them of this form: T. barnesae * . Clicking on the name of the taxon brings up the Farinacci page in a pop-up box, clicking on the asterisk takes you to the Farinacci catalog.

Navigation Tip: The left and right arrow keyboard keys can be used to scroll through the pop-up images.

Update - file names: File names are now displayed below images. Also they are now colour coded holotype-image filenames are red and combination-coccospheres filenames are green


The Tools menu provides links to a range of extra tools. For more explanation of these see the pages on Advanced search and on the Neptune database of occurrence data.


The ideal way to use nannotax is probably on a large second monitor and if you are using the site extensively you might consider this as one reason for getting, or asking for, a second monitor. If you have got plenty of screen space then you can increase the number of images displayed in each row of the taxon tables - this can be set from the Preferences & Time control page. At present only the first four images are actively curated so the additional images displayed are a relatively random selection, but especially on genus pages having some extra images can be very informative.


Students wanting to learn about nannofossils. The tables of daughter taxa allow you to explore the taxonomy whilst the diagnoses and notes should help you understand how the taxonomy works. To identify a taxon you will probably find it easiest to use the images on the higher taxon pages to find your way toward likely species. Actually this is much like the classic strategy of looking through the plates in a monograph for something similar - but a bit more structured, in particular the diagnoses alongside the images help explain how the different taxa on the page are separated. As you learn the taxonomy navigating through the site will get much faster. If you are working on a particular stratigraphic interval you will almost certainly find it helps to highlight the taxa from this time interval - see the "time control" item in the tools menu.

Experienced nannofossil workers seeking reference information. You will probably find the quickest way to navigate through to a particular taxon is to use the grand-daughter links, you can get to almost all taxa in three clicks navigating this way. Do note that some taxa are listed as variants - if you feel they are worth listing as separate species feel free to comment. Also note that original descriptions are given in the Farinacci catalog pages.

Other scientists looking for information on particular species - the site should work fine as an encylopedia of nannoplankton and the search page will probably be the best place to start. Most nannofossil terminology is straightforward but there is a link to our terminology guide in the tools menu.

Tourists wanting to see some nice images - have fun, there are a lot of remarkable structures here. Have a look at the Braarudosphaeraceae for instance.