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New and Old Worlds

Database of fossil mammals

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General questions:

A: Many users simply look up information about individual localities and species, using NOW as an encyclopedia. You can also use NOW as a time machine to look at how the distribution of species has changed over time, or to check the oldest and youngest record of a given species or taxon. NOW is also widely used as a source for professional publications all around the world.

A: Because NOW is a community working on mammals. The database is not a stand-alone data repository, it summarizes knowledge of the research community, and is curated accordingly as new knowledge accumulates.

A: Just like any individual dataset compiled by any researcher, NOW most certainly contains inaccuracies and uncertainties. The data in the NOW database are coordinated with emphasis on consistency, meaning that the final say on presence or absence of species or other characteristics is up to the coordinator responsible for that particular group or region. Rather than presenting a collection of many available opinions, now presents interpretations of experts. In some ways, the treatment is similar to that of scientific committees such as the International Commission on Stratigraphy overseeing the International Chronostratigraphic Chart.

A: You are most welcome to use any source on the internet. What is special about NOW is that it contains information about the traits and properties of the taxa, their occurrences and the localities at which they occur. NOW aims at being consistent in this. That is why we have coordinators with full rights to decide issues of taxonomy and stratigraphy, for example. Of course, and even with complete formal consistency, a residual of underlying disorder and inconsistency will always remain.

Data content:

A: No. Although NOW has very good coverage of many areas and intervals, it will never be complete. NOW is fundamentally just like similar to a physical fossil collection at a museum. The collection grows and develops in many ways, some of them goal-oriented and others random. NOW summarizes the knowledge of a research community, the database is curated and refined as knowledge of the community accumulates. Completeness is not the aim. More than a simple repository of data, NOW is a community of researchers, scholars, specialists.

A: Wonderful! This is one important way in which the database can grow and develop. The first step is to discuss it with the coordinator responsible for the respective group or region. Please get in touch with the database curator Kari Lintulaakso who will guide you to the right person or simply look at the NOW Advisory Board listing on the NOW web page and contact the appropriate coordinator directly. If the responsible coordinator agrees, you can make the update yourself or leave it for the responsible coordinator to make the update. To make updates yourself you will need an account, which will be provided for any updates cleared by the coordinator.

A: You are most welcome to add data. Please get in touch with the database curator Kari Lintulaakso who will guide you to the right person and through the process.

A: Yes, please do! The database is referenced, and each update must have an associated reference. The primary practice is to reference publications, but professional personal communications, observations are also acceptable as references. All of that must be properly referenced and tractable, for example by DOI.


A: It is a unit referring to a place (and time) where fossils come from. Some places have a finer resolution/ finer division into localities than others. A locality may be a single layer of rocks or sediment or refer to a broader area, such as a whole rock series, for example. The latter situation occurs especially with older collections. NOW follows locality designations of the original publications from which data comes.

A: General localities, such as Samos, have been established to record data that has no fine-grained locality information or comes from historical collections where only limited information is recorded.

Locality Age:

A: MN is a biochronological system that gives a relative age for European Neogene localities based on mammalian faunal assemblages. The system was introduced by French paleontologist Pierre Mein in 1975 and has undergone multiple revisions and updates. Individual MN units are characterized either by first or last occurrence of selected taxa or by similarity to reference localities (reference faunas). The current age boundaries for MN units in NOW are set according to Hilgen et al. (2012).

A: NOW does not use the MN system as a framework, but MN happens to be the most frequently encountered time reference unit for European localities and historically has received a lot of attention in NOW. Globally NOW uses many different time frameworks.

Locality Species:

A: Typically, species which have been entered are not deleted. Taxonomic names are often refined and synonyms added, making old names obsolete. Species names that have no locality occurrence are not seen in routine views or downloads but remain searchable. Merging taxa or localities can only be done by associate coordinators.

A: Yes, North American localities have been aggregated during the data development process; the raw data have not been preserved. Therefore, North American localities may seem to have richer faunal lists than European ones. In addition, relative ages for North American and European data have been determined using slightly different methods. Users should be mindful of these differences when doing faunal richness comparisons across continents.

User Account:

A: Just as in physical fossil collections, a small portion of data might remain private while the researcher or team that collected it is working on it, or a portion of data compiled from public sources needs extensive curatorial attention and harmonization before releasing it for public use. NOW does not accommodate permanently private user data; all data initially entered as private are meant to become public in a few years.

A: To browse and download data you do not need an account. If you would like to add or edit data an account can be provided. The Steering group makes the decision. To apply for an account please get in touch with the database curator Kari Lintulaakso.

A: Great! Please contact us and let us know how you think you could contribute. You may contact any NOW member you might know or else database curator Kari Lintulaakso.


License: Except where otherwise noted, content on this site is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

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Website by:
Arja Hokkanen, Gudrun Evans, Susanna Sova, Kari Lintulaakso
Maintained by:
Kari Lintulaakso
Page updated on:
Tue Oct 26 07:41:36 2021