What is Traitbase?

Traitbase is a free and open database to share individual level species information. Ecological species characteristics like body size, diet or fecundity are of a huge importance for researchers trying to understand how species and ecosystems works. Despite as a collective we have generated immense data on ecological traits for different species, this data is scattered in different publications which often only report mean trait values or stored in private datasets. Traitbase aims to be a common place to share this information in a easy and fair way.

How it works?

The database is designed so it can be easily extended to any organism, but initially you will find data only on bees. Each taxa has a curator that defines the traits and units acceptable for those taxa. Data is individual based, so each specimen can have different attributes and can be accessed raw, or summarized by species. Taxonomy is directly retrieved from ITIS.

Only fully identified species are accepted. Data is automatically checked for correct taxonomy (synonyms and mispellings are corrected automatically), that trait values fall within sensible ranges and that geographical locations are credible.

Data can be accessed via a webpage, R package or API. The R package allows to download queried data, run automatic checks, run predefined functions to generate processed data and get the correct citation for the used data.

To ensure long term storage with a citable DOI, a data paper with all data contributors as co-authors will be published and periodic data updates will be deposited in permanent repositories like dryad or Figshare.


Open data. Data can be used for research without restrictions, but appropiate credit is necesary. If you use data hosted at Traitbase, the level of credit you need to give to data contributors may be variable. At a minimum you should cite the original work containing the data used. All published dataset in Traitbase has a DOI or a list of contributors. If the data from one or various contributors plays a significant role in your analysis (either because is the primary data used or because its importance in the analysis), please consider contacting with the data contributor to discuss collaboration and/or co-authorship with them. In our experience, this kind of collaboration is a win-win situation, as only data collectors know the in and outs of the data and can help tremendously in its use and interpretation.

Only cite Traitbase (paper in prep.) if the platform played a major role on the development of your paper, otherwise, please save the space to cite the original data holders.

What's next?

If you want to be the curator of anoter taxon, contact me and we can devlop the schema. For example: aphids, birds, spiers, or any other taxa of interest.