Diaforá: A Visualization Tool for the Comparison of Biological Taxonomies

  • Lilliana Sancho-ChavarríaEmail author
  • Carlos Gómez-Soza
  • Fabian Beck
  • Erick Mata-Montero
Conference paper
Part of the Communications in Computer and Information Science book series (CCIS, volume 1087)


We address the problem of visualizing differences between two versions of a biological taxonomy. Given the dynamics of the taxonomic work, taxonomists are often faced with alternative versions of a taxonomy that need to be reconciled. Nevertheless, visual comparison of hierarchies is an open problem that involves several difficult challenges in Visual Analytics. First, how to display not one but two possibly large taxonomies on a fixed-size screen. Second, how to highlight all differences between the two taxonomies. We present Diaforá, an interactive tool that infers and visualizes the differences. Automatic inference is achieved by incorporating taxonomy rules to identify operations such as merging, splitting, and renaming of taxa, among others. Highlighting of differences is accomplished by using the edge drawing technique, which has been enhanced with a number of features suggested by users of a prototype version. Diaforá has been implemented and tested with real world taxonomies such as Bryozoa and Annelida as well as with artificial taxonomies.


Biological taxonomies Information visualization Hierarchy comparison 



This research is funded in part by Instituto Tecnológico de Costa Rica. We also want to thank Computer Science student Bryan Hernández for his support on data acquisition and formatting.


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Copyright information

© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2020

Authors and Affiliations

  • Lilliana Sancho-Chavarría
    • 1
    Email author
  • Carlos Gómez-Soza
    • 1
  • Fabian Beck
    • 2
  • Erick Mata-Montero
    • 1
  1. 1.Escuela de ComputaciónInstituto Tecnológico de Costa RicaCartagoCosta Rica
  2. 2.palunoUniversity of Duisburg-EssenDuisburgGermany

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