FishBase is a scientific database; this implies that its contents, like that of a scientific paper or book are linked via references to prior scientific knowledge, which enables both verification and the attribution of credit to the cited author(s). The references are usually not directly cited in the body of the FishBase tables. Rather, it is a ‘Ref.’ number (or Main Ref.) that is cited, i.e., a sequential number itself linked with a full reference, consisting of fields for: Author(s)’ name(s) and initials, Year, Title, Source, Keywords and Cross references.


Author(s), Year, Title and Source fields follow scientific conventions for such citations, while the Cross references field contains reference numbers of other pertinent references used within FishBase. If you double-click on a cross-reference, the respective record will show up. Keywords are summarized into 50 yes/no categories covering the whole range of information that is available in FishBase.

Language fields are available for the text of each cited work. The following lists the languages that are differentiated here, and the percentage (in brackets) of references in each of these languages: English (83%), French (4.1%), Spanish 3.0%), German (1.5%) and other languages with less than 1%. About 4% of the references have not yet been classified according to the language of publication because the citation is incomplete (see below). The language can sometimes be deduced from the source. However, we opted not to assign any language in cases where the reference source was in a series published in more than one language, pending further verification.


References are also identified by type of the over 20,000 FishBase references: 62% were derived from journal articles; 14% from book chapters; 7% from books; 6% from reports; 2% from theses; and 9% from other sources.

Journal articles and books comprise 83% of the references

The STATUS window (click on Status button) provides information on the availability, completeness and status of the reference. Three yes/no fields are provided (go to Status button) to indicate availability of the reference at ICLARM in general or as part of the extensive personal reprint collections of Daniel Pauly (DP) and Rainer Froese (RF).

Further, references are marked as either ‘complete’ or ‘incomplete’. The latter may have one of the major fields blank or flagged as ‘missing’ or ‘to be filled’. This usually pertains to references not seen, i.e., cited in some source material that is usually indicated in the cross-reference field. We shall strive to gradually complete such references, and invite you to assist us with this. Presently, 15% of the FishBase references are tagged as incomplete.

More than 200,000 references have been used in FishBase

In many cases, references were used for only part of the information they contain (e.g., the growth parameters were extracted from a paper also containing an account of say, food and feeding habits), the result of different FishBase staff having to specialize on various tables. A choice field with the options ‘used in part’; ‘used completely’; and ‘not seen’, identifies such cases which we will strive to gradually eliminate.

Over 150 publications cite FishBase

References that cite FishBase are also marked as such (not displayed in the user interface). There are over 150 references citing FishBase, 38% of which are publications by FishBase Team members and 62% are those of other colleagues, including in articles in Nature and Science. Graphs illustrating the cumulative number of FishBase citations can be displayed by clicking on the References button in the Main Menu window, then on the FishBase citations button in the REFERENCES menu window and finally on the Graph button on the top right corner of the LIST OF REFERENCES CITING FISHBASE window.

The All species treated button in the REFERENCE INFORMATION window leads to a list of all the species that are treated in the reference and for which we have extracted information. Note that this list includes the name of the species used as valid in the reference along with its current valid scientific name (see also ‘The BIBLIO Table’ and section on ‘Nomenclatural Changes’ under the ‘The SYNONYMS Table’ chapter, this vol.).


References are added to long or short FishBase synopses and other FishBase outputs. Moreover, a routine was programmed to output all references by author, title, source, keywords, family or subfamily to facilitate checking and to evaluate the FishBase coverage of various fish groups or areas. This routine is accessible from the REFERENCES menu window (from the Main Menu) through the Find references button. You are welcome to send us reprints and reports from which you think we should extract information for incorporation in FishBase.

All original descriptions of fishes

Note that starting with FishBase 98, we are making W.N. Eschmeyer’s REFERENCES table available through FishBase. That table includes all original descriptions of fishes, and all revisions of the last 20 years. It sets a standard for the proper citation of original descriptions.

How to get there

You get to the REFERENCES table by clicking on the References button in the FishBase Main Menu, by double-clicking on any reference number within any table, or by making a list of references used for a species in the SPECIES table. The internal name of this table is REFRENS.

You get to Eschmeyer’s references by clicking on the respective button in REFERENCES menu, or by double-clicking on the Author field in the SPECIES or SYNONYMS forms.

On the Internet, we show references by Author(s) and year in the various data pages. Click on the reference to see the full citation. All references used for a species are available if you click on the respective link in the ‘More information’ section of the ‘Species Summary’ page. In the ‘Search FishBase’ page, you can create lists of relevant references if you select the References radio button in the ‘Information by Family’ or ‘Information by Country/Island’ sections. In the ‘References’ section you can search several bibliographic databases (FishBase, Eschmeyer, Bibliga (=library of the ichthyology department of the Paris museum (MNHN), ICLARM’s library, and the collection of contributions listed in Naga, the ICLARM Quarterly) by Author, Year, Title or Reference number.

Maria Lourdes D. Palomares and Daniel Pauly