Biota: The Biodiversity Database Manager

About Biota 3: Major Features

Biota 3 builds on the success of Biota 2, based on 15 years of user experience managing specimen-based, georeferenced biodiversity and collections data for ecologists, biodiversity inventories, and collections managers in 40 countries and 47 U.S. states. Its easy-to-use graphical interface harnesses the power of a fully relational database powered by an industrial-grade engine (4th Dimension, ).

With a comprehensive, profusely illustrated and cross-referenced online Manual with an introductory tutorial to back up intuitive menus and screens, Biota 3 offers a rich array of user-tested tools for rapid data input, update, maintenance, analysis, reporting, and Web publication.

Geographically Referenced and Taxomically Classified Specimens and Observations

Every specimen or observation has two affiliations: it belongs to a species (and the species to a genus, and so on), and it was collected or observed in a location (and the location belongs to a dataset or a politcal unit). These crossed hierarchies of place and taxon make managing flatfiles (e.g. Excel spreadsheets) a nightmare and a waste of time, with mostly repeated data. Instead, Biota organizes and maintains your data relationally, with a single entry for each place and each taxon. If you need a flatfile, you can simply export it, error-free, from Biota.


Biota 3 provides a capable, integrated Reference Manager for literature citation records, hot-linked to online sources, with relational links to Species, Specimen, Collection and Locality records. You can import citation files exported by reference management applications (optimized for EndNote).

Web Publication

With Biota 3, you can export virtually any selection of Biota records as hyperlinked, static web pages, ready to post on any Web server.

Data Import And Export

Biota 3's powerful import tools help you convert your existing data and literature reference files to Biota's relational structure. A wide array of text file export tools provids easy access to your data for analysis and publication using other applications.

Additional Features

Biota 3 's features also include unlimited, user-definable Auxiliary fields and Projects (each with its own set of fields); re-namable core fields; authority/pick-list tools; one-screen input for historical specimens; recursive specimen relations (e.g., herbivore-plant, parasite-host, DNA-specimen); automatic archiving of a specimen determination "audit-trail"; flexible barcode/manual input for record entry, record retrieval, and loan management; and a password security system with multiple privilege levels. Some fields in Biota 3 accommodate more characters than the corresponding fields in Biota 2.

Fully Interchangeable Data Files

Biota 3 Data Files can be used interchangeably, without conversion, between Macintosh and Windows operating systems.

(This is a great improvement over Biota 2 Data Files, which can be converted between Macintosh and Windows, but the conversion must be done with special software on a Mac running System 9! )

File Conversion from Biota 2 to Biota 3 Format

In most cases, you can convert your Biota 2 Data Files to Biota 3 format simply by opening them with Biota 3. In some cases, it is necessary to "clean up" a Biota 2 Data File using 4D Tools before it will convert. Be sure to make a backup first; you cannot undo conversion to Biota 3 format!

About Biota 2: Additional Features and Limitations


Biota 2 manages images linked to Species, Specimen, Collection and Locality records in any of 10 image formats. Thumbnail image arrays speed specimen identification, with transparent links to full external image files for zooming or editing. You can capture images from any TWAIN compliant device, directly from the Biota record you wish to link it to. Because of licensing issues with image-handling plug-ins, Biota 3 does not handle images.

Web Publication

Biota 2 introduced an onboard web server offering website visitors either easy, query-based access to data and images, or an extensive array of Biota's desktop query and browsing tools. Continuous use of the Biota 2 web-server required purchase of a separate license from 4D Inc, which is unfortunately no longer available. However, if you already own a license, you may of course continue to use it, but it does not work for Biota 3. With Biota 3 (as for Biota 2), you can export virtually any selection of Biota records as hyperlinked, static web pages, ready to post on any external Web server.

Operating System Limitations

Biota 2 runs under Windows XP and 7 and Mac OS 10 up to 10.6 (Snow Leopard). Biota 2 does not run under Mac OS 10.7 (Lion) or later. It is also possible that it will not run under future Windows operating systems. Biota 2.0.4 is the final version of Biota 2.

Who Uses Biota?


Ecologists, Conservation Biologists, Reserve Managers, and Biogeographers

Biota offers many advantages to anyone who works with spatially-referenced, taxonomically-classified specimen-based data. From 1 ha vegetation plots, to regional or protected-area biotic inventories, to continental-scale specimen databases, Biota saves you enormous amounts of time, frustration, and errors.

  • No more struggling through immense speadsheets with repeated (variously mispelled) taxonomic and locality columns. Biota's relational structure means there is exactly one record for each taxon and locality.
  • No more half-days spent extracting data for a particular set of samples and taxa. With Biota, you can export taxon-by-collection or taxon-by locality abundance or incidence matrices based on any selection of records, ready for statistical analysis, and get on with the interesting work.
  • No more repetitive data entry for multiple specimens that share collecting or taxonomic data. With Biota's "Series" entry tools, you set up the data once, and Biota creates or updates specified sets of records.

Taxonomists, Systematists, and Collections Managers

Biota offers rigorous tools for recording, updating, and archiving specimen determinations for collections, revisions, and evolutionary studies.

  • For systematists, Biota keeps track of specimens, species synonymies, type status, specimen detemination histories, and loans from and to collections. can export species-by-character matrices in NEXUS format or virtually journal-ready Specimens Examined lists, from any selection of records.
  • A custom-designed specimen management system for a museum or herbarium costs at least $100,000 and usually requires at least a part-time IT specialist to maintain it and to train personnel. Museums or herbaria in many institutions and in many countries that cannot bear such costs have found that Biota answers well.
  • Managers of institutional or personal collections rely on Biota 1's straightforward specimen loan management system, label-printing and label text export facilities (for pinned, fluid-preserved, slide-mounted, or herbarium specimens), and static web page export.

Platforms and Formats

Biota 3 runs under Windows (Windows 7 or XP) and Macintosh (OS X, up to 10. 8, Lion).

Biota 2.0.4 runs under Windows (Windows 7, Vista, XP, NT, ME, or 2000) and Macintosh (OS X, up to 10. 7, Snow Leopard, but NOT OS 10.8, Lion).


BiotaApp is a stand-alone, single-user application with an integrated database engine (4D Engine) and onboard Web server. You need no additional software to run BiotaApp .


Biota4D, intended for multiuser, networked environments, runs in true client/server mode under 4D Server. As of early 2011, new installations of Biota4D (the Client-Server version of Biota) were no longer possible, because no stopped offering 4D Server 6.8. This discontinuation does not affect BiotaAppMac or BiotaAppWin, the stand-alone desktop versions of Biota.

Interchangeable Data Files

Biota 3 Data Files can be used interchangeably, without conversion, between Macintosh and Windows operating systems.

This is a great improvement over Biota 2 Data Files, which can be converted between Macintosh and Windows, but the conversion must be done with special software on a Mac running System 9!

Download Biota 3 or 2 now

Click here to go to the Download page.

Biota 2 and 3 Schema/ERD

The logical schema for a relational database such as Biota specifies the the entities (tables) attributes (fields) and relations (logical relationships) for the database, which can be visualized in an Entity Relationship Diagram (ERD). Click here to display Appendix A from the the Biota 2 Manual, which provides a detailed description the shema for Biota 2.

The schema for Biota 3 lacks the Image Table, and some fields accommodate more characters, but is otherwise identical to the schema for Biota 2.

Biota Data on the Internet

Visit these sites to see web pages automatically created by Biota. If your site uses Biota but is not listed, please send the URL.

Biota 2 Dynamic Access Website (Running Under Biota 2's Onboard Web Server)

A specimen-based arthropod inventory (Project ALAS), with many images:

Biota-Produced Static Pages Websites (Biota 2 or 3)

(All sites below rely on Biotas's static Web page export, included in both Biota 2 and 3..)

A species-based entomological site:

An elegant museum site with extensive spider collections online:

(Follow the link for " Tiersammlungen", then go to the bottom of the page)
©2016 Robert K. Colwell