globalnamesarchitecture / gnparser   1.0.2

MIT License Website GitHub

Split scientific names to meaningful elements with meta information

Scala versions: 2.11 2.10

Global Names Parser

Important: Scala version of gnparser is entering an 'archive' state. Use

We do not have a Scala expert in our group anymore, therefore we ported gnparser to Go. We strongly recommend to switch to new version and submit bugs/suggestions according to its CONTRIBUTING doc.

Note: To submit issues you can login to GitLab with your GitHub account.

If you have means and a desire to continue development of Scala version please do so!

gnparser splits scientific names into their component elements with associated meta information. For example, "Homo sapiens Linnaeus" is parsed into human readable information as follows:

Element Meaning Position
Homo genus (0,4)
sapiens specificEpithet (5,12)
Linnaeus author (13,21)

Try it as a web-page:

Try it as an web-service:

Try it as a command line tool under Linux/Mac:

sudo rm -rf /opt/gnparser
sudo mv gnparser-1.0.2 /opt/gnparser
sudo rm -f /usr/local/bin/gnparser
sudo ln -s /opt/gnparser/bin/gnparser /usr/local/bin
gnparser name "Homo sapiens Linnaeus"
gnparser --help

gnparser is also dockerized:

docker pull gnames/gnparser
# to run web-server
docker run -p 80:4334 --name gnparser gnames/gnparser web
# to run socket server
docker run -d -p 4334:4334 --name gnparser gnames/gnparser socket

Finally, run it right from your SBT console:

$ mkdir -p project
$ echo 'sbt.version=0.13.12' > project/
$ sbt ';set libraryDependencies += "org.globalnames" %% "gnparser" % "1.0.2";console'
scala> import org.globalnames.parser.ScientificNameParser.{instance => scientificNameParser}
scala> scientificNameParser.fromString("Homo sapiens Linnaeus").renderCompactJson

Global Names Parser or gnparser is a Scala library for breaking up scientific names into their different elements. The elements are classified. It is based on parboiled2 -- a Parsing Expression Grammar (PEG) library. The gnparser project evolved from another PEG-based scientific names parser -- biodiversity written in Ruby. Both projects were developed as a part of Global Names Architecture.

Many other parsing algorithms for scientific names use regular expressions. This approach works well for extracting canonical forms in simple cases. However, for complex scientific names and to parse scientific names into all semantic elements regular expressions often fail, unable to overcome the recursive nature of data embedded in names. By contrast, gnparser is able to deal with the most complex scientific name-strings.

gnparser takes a name-string like Drosophila (Sophophora) melanogaster Meigen, 1830 and returns parsed components in JSON format. This parser's behavior is defined in its tests and the test file is a good source of information about parser's capabilities, its input and output.

Millions of names parsed per hour on a i7-4930K CPU (6 cores, 12 threads, at 3.4 GHz), parser v0.3.1

Threads Millions/hr
1 29.44
2 50.85
4 90.45
8 120.75
12 130.9
  • Fast (~8x faster than biodiversity gem), rock solid and elegant
  • Extracts all elements from a name, not only canonical forms
  • Works with very complex scientific names, including hybrids
  • Can be used directly in any language that can call Java -- Scala, Java, R, Python, Ruby etc.
  • Can run as a command line application
  • Can run as a socket server
  • Can run as a web server
  • Can be integrated into Apache Spark-based projects
  • Can be scaled to many CPUs and computers
  • Calculates a stable UUID version 5 ID from the content of a string

Canonical forms of a scientific name are the latinized components without annotations, authors or dates. They are great for matching names despite alternative spellings. Use the canonicalName -> value field from parsing results for this use case.

In botany infraspecific ranks play an important role. Use canonicalName -> valueRanked field to preserve them.

There are many inconsistencies in how scientific names may be written. Use normalized field to bring them all to a common form (spelling, spacing, ranks).

Many data administrators store name-strings in two columns and split them into "name part" and "authorship part". This practice misses some information when dealing with names like "Prosthechea cochleata (L.) W.E.Higgins var. grandiflora (Mutel) Christenson". However, if this is the use case, a combination of canonicalName -> valueRanked with the authorship from the lowest taxon will do the job. You can also use --format simple flag for gnparse command line tool.

If there are problems with parsing a name, parser generates qualityWarnings messages and lowers parsing quality of the name. Quality values mean the following:

  • "quality": 1 - No problems were detected
  • "quality": 2 - There were small problems, normalized result should still be good
  • "quality": 3 - There were serious problems with the name, and the final result is rather doubtful
  • "parse": false - A string could not be recognized as a scientific name

gnparser uses UUID version 5 to generate its id field. There is algorithmic 1:1 relationship between the name-string and the UUID. Moreover the same algorithm can be used in any popular language to generate the same UUID. Such IDs can be used to globally connect information about name-strings or information associated with name-strings.

More information about UUID version 5 can be found in the Global Names blog.

You can also use UUID calculation library in your code as it is shown in Scala example section.

gnparser tries to correct problems with spelling, but sometimes it is important to keep original spelling of the canonical forms or authorships. The positions field attaches semantic meaning to every word in the original name-string and allows users to create canonical forms or other combinations using the original verbatim spelling of the words. Each element in positions contains 3 parts:

  1. semantic meaning of a word
  2. start position of the word
  3. end position of the word

For example ["specificEpithet", 6, 11] means that a specific epithet starts at 6th character and ends before 11th character of the string.

The artifacts for gnparser are located on Maven Central and can be set as a dependency in following ways:


libraryDependencies += "org.globalnames" %% "gnparser" % "1.0.2"




Release package should be sufficient for all usages but development. It is not needed for including gnparser into Java or Scala code -- declare dependency instead.

Java Run Environment (JRE) version >= 1.6 (>= 1.8 for runner project)

File Description Command line tool, web and socket server Source code's zip file
release-1.0.2.tar.gz Source code's tar file
sudo rm -rf /opt/gnparser
sudo mv gnparser-1.0.2 /opt/gnparser
sudo rm -f /usr/local/bin/gnparser
sudo ln -s /opt/gnparser/bin/gnparser /usr/local/bin
  1. Download
  2. Extract it to a place where you usually store program files
  3. Update your PATH to point to bin subdirectory
  4. Now you can use gnparser command provided by gnparser.bat script from CMD

Note that gnparser loads Java runtime environment every time it is called. As a result parsing one name at a time is much slower than parsing many names from a file. When parsing large file expect rates of 6000-9000 name-strings per second on one CPU.

To parse one name

gnparser name "Parus major Linnaeus, 1788"

To parse names from a file (one name per line)

gnparser file --input file_with_names.txt [--output output_file.json --threads 8]

file is the default command if no command is given. If you want to parse very large number of name-strings using file subcommand, break data into several files with about 500,000 name-strings in each. To parse names from STDIN to STDOUT:

cat file_with_names.txt | gnparser > file_with_parsed_names.txt

gnparser accepts the flag --format (or simply -f) that determines the output representation. The values are simple for simple tab-delimited format, json-pretty and json-compact for the JSON extended pretty form and the compact form correspondingly

To parse a name-string

gnparser name "Parus major Linnaeus, 1788" --format simple

The simple format returns tab-delimited result with following fields:

  • ID of the supplied name-string (generated by UUID5 algorithm)
  • Supplied name-string verbatim
  • Canonical form without ranks
  • Canonical form with ranks
  • Authorship (for the lowest rank only)
  • Year
  • Parsing quality (from 1 to 3, one being the best)

To see help

Note that gnparser -h shows the JVM help instead of gnparser help.

gnparser --help

Use socket (TCP/IP) server when the gnparser library cannot be imported directly by a programming language. Setting --port is optional, 4334 is the default port.

gnparser socket --port 1234

To test the socket connection with command line:

telnet localhost 1234

When you see your telnet prompt, enter a name and press Enter.

To use (TCP/IP) socket server in your code find a socket library for your language. There is a good chance it is included in the language's core. For example in Ruby it would be:

require "socket"
s ="", 1234)
s.write("Homo sapiens\n")

gnparser TCP server can parse new-line delimited string in a single run. It is more efficient to send several new-line delimited names at once through the socket. gnparser server returns a string which contains new-line delimited chunks, where each line is a JSON string for a corresponding input name.

Example below also includes a safeguard for "back pressure" cases, where a client application sends strings too fast. TCP server stores data temporarily in buffers before processing, and buffers might get over-filled. At such moment TCP server stops receiving new packets ("back pressure" situation) until it empties its inner queue of messages. Because of that a client application should monitor the count of sent bytes:

require "socket"
require "json"

socket ="", 4334)

open("names.txt").each_slice(100) do |slice|
  text = slice.join
  until socket.write(text) == text.bytes.size
    puts("Reading of a slice starting with #{slice[0]} failed. Retrying")
    str = socket.recv(10) until str.nil?
  slice.each { puts(socket.gets) }

Use web-server as an HTTP alternative to TCP/IP server. Setting --port is optional, 4334 is the default port. To start web server in production mode on

gnparser web --port 9000

Make sure to CGI-escape name-strings for GET requests. An '&' character needs to be converted to '%26'

  • GET /api?q=Aus+bus|Aus+bus+D.+%26+M.,+1870
  • POST /api with request body of JSON array of strings
require 'json'
require 'net/http'

uri = URI('')
http =, uri.port)
http.use_ssl = true
request =, 'Content-Type' => 'application/json',
                                   'accept' => 'json')
request.body = ['Solanum mariae Särkinen & S.Knapp',
                'Ahmadiago Vánky 2004'].to_json
response = http.request(request)

Several languages are supported either natively or by running their JVM-based versions. The examples folder provides scientific name parsing code snippets for Scala, Java, Jython, JRuby and R languages.

To avoid declaring multiple dependencies Jython, JRuby and R need a reference gnparser fat-jar.

If you decide to follow examples get the code from the release or clone it from GitHub

Scala example is an SBT subproject. To run it execute the command:

sbt 'examples/runMain org.globalnames.parser.examples.ParserScala'

Calculation of UUID version 5 can be done in the following way:

scala> val gen = org.globalnames.UuidGenerator()
scala> gen.generate("Salinator solida")
res0: java.util.UUID = da1a79e5-c16f-5ff7-a925-14c5c7ecdec5

examples/spark/README.rst describes how to use gnparser with Scala or Python in Apache Spark projects.

Java example is an SBT subproject. To run it execute the command:

sbt 'examples/runMain org.globalnames.parser.examples.ParserJava'

Jython example requires Jython -- a Python language implementation for Java Virtual Machine. Jython distribution should be installed locally according to instructions.

To run it execute the command:

GNPARSER_JAR_PATH=/path/to/gnparser-assembly-1.0.2.jar \
  jython examples/jython/

R example requires rJava package to be installed. To run it execute the command:

Rscript examples/R/parser.R

JRuby example requires JRuby -- a Ruby language implementation for Java Virtual Machine. JRuby distribution should be installed locally according to instructions.

To run it execute the command:

jruby -J-classpath /path/to/gnparser-assembly-1.0.2.jar \
git clone
cd gnparser

If you decide to participate in gnparser development -- fork the repository and submit pull requests of your work.

The project consists of four parts:

  • parser contains core routines for parsing input string. It is a minimalistic library and doesn't contain any reference to any rendering library, such as JSON
  • parser-render extends parser functionality to render inner structures to JSON
  • examples contains usage samples for some popular programming languages
  • runner contains code required to run parser from a command line as a standalone tool, as a TCP/IP server, or as a web server
  • spark-python provides facilities to call parser from Spark
  • benchmark contains performance tests
Command Description
sbt test Runs all tests
sbt ++2.11.12 test Runs all tests against Scala v2.10.6
sbt assembly Creates fat jars for command line and web
sbt runner/universal:packageBin Creates executables for command line and web at ./runner/target/universal/
sbt 'runner/run name "Homo sapiens"' Parses single name
sbt 'runner/run web --port 9000' Runs the web server in development mode at port 9000
sbt 'runner/run socket -p 1234' Runs the TCP/IP server at port 1234

Sometimes it is beneficial to have a jar that contains everything necessary to run a program. Such a jar would include Scala and all required libraries. In the table above you can see that it can be generated with the command sbt assembly

Prebuilt container image can be found on dockerhub

To install/update container

docker pull gnames/gnparser

To run web server

docker run -d -p 80:4334 --name gnparser gnames/gnparser web

To run socket server

docker run -d -p 4334:4334 --name gnparser gnames/gnparser socket

Released under MIT license