Teleost Anatomy Ontology

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The Teleost Anatomy Ontology (TAO) is a multi-species anatomy ontology for ostariophysan fishes. Growth of the TAO is enabled by contributions from data curators and the ichthyological community (see Anatomy Term Trackers).

TAO and ZFA synchronization

The TAO was initialized with terms from the ZFA, and we currently maintain manual synchronization of the two ontologies. A synchronization tool (in development) will help automate this process.

One of the challenges in synchronzing the two ontologies involves the addition of terms to the TAO that are not required for the ZFA. The addition of these terms to the TAO may require the creation of additional intermediate terms that are redundant for the ZFA. For example, zebrafish have only one type of tooth (ceratobranchial 5 tooth. Other teleost species have teeth on the jaw bones and other branchial arch bones. Because of this, the term ‘tooth’ is needed in the TAO as a parent to all tooth types:

  • TAO:
    • ceratobranchial 5 tooth is_a tooth
    • premaxillary tooth is_a tooth
    • tooth is_a multitissue structure

The term ‘tooth’ is redundant for the ZFA because zebrafish have only one type of tooth:

  • ZFA:
    • ceratobranchial 5 tooth is_a multi-tissue structure

Anatomy Term Trackers

Term requests should include the name of the term being requested, its definition in genus-differentia form, any known synonyms, and all relevant relationships of the term with other existing terms.

If a term applies to zebrafish and teleost fishes, it should be submitted to Zebrafish anatomy tracker. If a term does not apply zebrafish, submit your request to Teleost anatomy tracker. Submitted requests are forwarded from the tracker to the Teleost-discuss mailing list. Terms are added to the anatomy ontology usually within one week, and incorporates comments and suggestions (if any) from teleost-discuss.


Homology links are important in the use of multi-species ontologies because homology is not implied if the same term is used in annotations for different species, and homology links are needed to define homology relations between different terms in the ontology. Terms in the anatomy ontology are defined based on structural similarity, and it cannot be assumed that this similarity is due to common ancestry. For example, zebrafish and humans both possess a frontal bone; however, there is evidence that the zebrafish frontal bone is homologous to the human parietal bone. Our use of the homologous_to relation between entities that are homologues will help clarify the identity of such similarly named but nonhomologous bones.

We have developed a method for homology designation by recording homology statements outside of the ontology, as an annotation with attribution and evidence codes. Homology statements are hypotheses, and users of our database will have the option of viewing competing hypotheses of homology when they occur.