DELTA (taxonomy)

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DELTA (DEscription Language for TAxonomy) is a data format used in taxonomy for recording descriptions of living things. It is designed for computer processing, allowing the generation of identification keys, diagnosis, etc.[1]

It is widely accepted as a standard and many programs using this format are available for various taxonomic tasks.

It was devised by the CSIRO Australian Division of Entomology in 1971 to 2000, with a notable part taken by Dr. Michael J. Dallwitz. More recently, the Atlas of Living Australia (ALA) rewrote the DELTA software in Java so it can run in a Java environment and across multiple operating systems. The software package can now be found at and downloaded from the ALA site.[2]

DELTA System[edit]

The DELTA System is a group of integrated programs that are built on the DELTA format. The main program is the DELTA Editor, which provides an interface for creating a matrix of characters for any number taxa. A whole suite of programs can be found and run from within the DELTA editor which allow for the output of an interactive identification key, called Intkey.[3] Other powerful features include the output of natural language descriptions, full diagnoses, and differences among taxa.


  1. ^ Dallwitz, M. J. "DELTA - DEscritption Language for Taxonomy".
  2. ^ "Open DELTA". Atlas of Living Australia.
  3. ^ Dallwitz, M. J. (1980). "A General System for Coding Taxonomic Descriptions". Taxon. 29 (1): 41–46. doi:10.2307/1219595. JSTOR 1219595. S2CID 85981894.

External links[edit]