Darwin Core

Darwin Core is our most popular standard for sharing biodiversity information.

technical specification current standard 2009
Image by Alex Guillaume

Header section

Darwin Core
IRI to be cited and linked
Biodiversity Information Standards (TDWG)
Current Standard
The Darwin Core is a set of terms and definitions that facilitate the exchange of information about the geographic occurrence of organisms and the physical existence of biotic specimens in collections. Extensions to the Darwin Core provide a mechanism to share additional information, which may be discipline-specific, or beyond the commonly agreed upon scope of the Darwin Core itself. The Darwin Core and its extensions are primarily focused on intended semantics (definitions) and impose relatively few constraints on format or encoding. This makes the standard maximally useful in data publishing (reduces barriers), and enables the standard to support pipelines and other tools that can incrementally improve data quality.
Preferred citation
Darwin Core Task Group (2009) Darwin Core (G. Kampmeier, review manager). Biodiversity Information Standards (TDWG). http://www.tdwg.org/standards/450

Parts of the standard

The Darwin Core standard is comprised of one vocabulary, the Darwin Core vocabulary (http://rs.tdwg.org/dwc/), and five documents:

Maintenance Group

Modifications and enhancements to Darwin Core are managed by the Darwin Core Maintenance Group.

The best way to be involved is to create an account on GitHub, and "watch" the Darwin Core GitHub repository, as well as the Darwin Core Questions & Answers repository, and respond to requests for comments or "issues" (Darwin Core issues and Darwin Core QA issues). Information about how to suggest changes to the standard can be found at the Guidelines for Contributing page.

Scope of Darwin Core

What is in scope?

  • Collections of any kind of biological objects or data.
  • Terminology associated with biological collection data.
  • Striving for compatibility with other biodiversity-related standards.
  • Facilitating the addition of components and attributes of biological data.

What is not in scope?

  • Data interchange protocols.
  • Non-biodiversity-related data.
  • Purely taxonomic data.


  • Biodiversity data holders (organizations, institutions, researchers).
  • Consumers of biodiversity data.
  • Developers of collections management systems.
  • Other TDWG interest and task groups.
  • Protocol developers (TAPIR).
  • Biodiversity network developers.


List of contributors