Skip Navigation

Instructions to Authors

New Policy for Rapid Online Publication – Systematic Biology now publishes accepted manuscripts and corrected proofs on its advance access page. See the section below on 'Advance Access Publication' for more information.

Systematic Biology (SB) is the journal of the Society of Systematic Biologists. SB is published 6 times per year. As stated in the constitution, the objective of the society is the advancement of the science of systematic biology in all aspects of theory, principles, methodology, and practice, for both living and fossil organisms, with emphasis on areas of common interest to all systematic biologists regardless of individual speculation.

Systematics is the study of biological diversity and its origins. It focuses on understanding evolutionary relationships among organisms, species, higher taxa, or other biological entities such as genes, and the evolution of properties of taxa including intrinsic traits, ecological interactions, and geographic distributions. An important part of systematics is the development of methods for various aspects of phylogenetic inference and biological nomenclature/classification.

Articles published in SB are original theoretical or empirical studies that explore principles and/or methods of systematics. Systematics is considered broadly to include phylogenetic studies of biogeography, paleontology, development, genes, and/or anatomical/cellular/molecular traits of taxa. Empirical papers chosen for publication are judged to be of interest to a broad systematics audience because they represent exemplary case studies involving some important contemporary issue or issues. These may be unusually thorough explorations of data, applications of new methodology, illustrations of fundamental principles, and/or investigations of particularly interesting evolutionary questions.

Points of View address controversial topics of current interest to systematists, and may be presented either individually or as point/counterpoint discussions between authors with opposing views. POVs should comprise well-developed justifications for substantive differences of opinion. Please note that abstracts are now required for Points of View submissions.

Software for Systematics and Evolution articles describe software or similar tools that are of general interest to and expected to be widely used by the systematics and evolutionary biology community.

Book Reviews proposals may be submitted to the Book Review Editor for approval.

Announcements are also published.


To submit a manuscript go to our ScholarOne Manuscripts Web site at and follow the instructions to log in. In case of problems, ScholarOne support can be accessed through the "Get Help Now" link on the ScholarOne Manuscripts Web site. They have tutorials, FAQs, and an “ask a question” screen to contact support personnel. For any additional questions or problems, contact the Editorial Office. During the submission process authors will be asked to confirm a statement that the manuscript has not been published or submitted simultaneously for publication elsewhere. Special arrangements will be made for authors unable to submit via the web; contact the Editorial Office for details.

Our instructions to authors should be followed carefully before submitting a manuscript. Manuscripts not conforming to the instructions will be returned to the author(s) for adjustments before the review process can begin. The text can be submitted as either a PDF file or a Word document. We prefer document files because reviewers may wish to make suggestions using Track Changes. If the manuscript was created in LaTeX, please convert to a PDF version for submission. The LaTex template can be found here. Please note that abstracts are now required for Points of View submissions.

The “create a new submission” link should be used only when submitting a manuscript never previously submitted in any form to SB. To submit either a revision or a resubmission (“resubmission” applies to manuscripts that previously received a decision of reject but with resubmission specifically noted to be permitted or encouraged), look under “manuscripts with decisions” and then use the link to create a revision or create a resubmission. This link will be accessible to the author who submitted the manuscript previously; if you need to change the author for submission then contact the Editorial Office. If your manuscript was unsubmitted by the Editorial Office due to failure to follow our instructions to authors, use the “continue submission” link after you have corrected the manuscript formatting.

Data and Supplementary Materials

All datasets used in the research for the manuscript must be made available to reviewers unless the data are already published elsewhere. For manuscripts involving phylogenetic analyses, electronic copies of data sets (e.g. nucleotide sequence data and new alignments of previously published data), in nexus format, must be supplied. Data files should also be provided for morphological analyses. All data files and online-only appendices should be uploaded to Dryad using the confidential link you will receive via email immediately after submitting the other manuscript files through Manuscript Central. Please use the following text under the heading Supplementary Material when linking to data hosted on Dryad in the article:
Data available from the Dryad Digital Repository:[NNNN]

Alternative arrangements may be made for very large data files associated with studies using simulations.

All nucleotide sequence data and alignments must be submitted to GenBank or EMBL before the paper can be published. In addition, all data matrices and resulting trees must be submitted to TreeBASE. GenBank and TreeBASE reference numbers should be provided in the final version of the paper.

Software for Systematics and Evolution Articles

Submissions should describe new or original software or tools that provide new analytical capabilities to the end user. Submissions may also be considered that describe new versions of existing software, provided that the new version makes significant changes to function or performance (for example, a version that implements new and important methods in addition to those previously provided in a software package might be considered for publication). Publication will be determined largely based on the software or tool itself, so working links to a functional copy must be provided at the time of submission.

Additional requirements: The software or tool must well documented and easy to use for the typical user. The manuscript itself must be readable by the general Systematic Biology readership. If relevant, the manuscript must include benchmark data, or refer to Supplemental Material that includes such data. If appropriate, such benchmarking should include real biological data and a comparison with related tools. If appropriate, the submission must include working sample data files. Any software must be open source, web-distributed and free to non-commercial users. In addition, the authors must certify that they will provide support for the software or tools for a minimum of two years from the date of publication. Systematic Biology encourages the use of GPL-like licenses and the use of open repositories, such as SourceForge or Google Code.

Software for Systematics and Evolution papers should include an abstract. In general, papers will be limited to 4 printed journal pages (less than 12 double-spaced manuscript pages), but exceptions can be made when warranted. We will not enforce any specific organization of the text, but the following suggestions might help in organizing a submission: an introduction that describes the motivation; a Description section; a Benchmark section; a Biological Examples section (if applicable); a statement regarding Availability. However the manuscript is organized, please pay careful attention to the normal formatting for section headings, references, and other aspects of the journal’s style.


All text, including the references section, must be double-spaced; 1.5 spacing is not acceptable. Continuous line numbers must be used. Use a very common font, such as Times New Roman, to ensure proper encoding into ScholarOne Manuscripts. Use 12-point type and margins of approximately 1 inch on all sides and a non-justified (ragged) right margin. Words should not be hyphenated at the ends of lines. All paragraphs should be indented approximately 0.5 inch (1 cm) using a tab command. Paragraphs must consist of 2 or more sentences. Footnotes should not be used.

Limit the manuscript to the length necessary to convey the work. Papers may be unsubmitted or rejected if they are longer than necessary. Number all manuscript pages consecutively in this order: title page, abstract, text, acknowledgements, references, appendices.

Throughout all stages of the review process all figures and tables must be mentioned in order and need to be embedded in the text. Continuous line numbering should be used. The word “Figure” should be spelled out if it appears in a sentence, but abbreviated “(Fig.)” if it appears in parentheses. Figure portions should always be referred to using lowercase letters, for example, (Fig. 1a). When an acronym or symbol is used in table or figure captions, it must be defined (even if it is also defined in the text) in the first table caption and first figure caption in which it is used. Once a paper is accepted the separate figure and table files will be required.

Scientific names of organisms are to be given the first time the organisms are mentioned. Genus and species names in the text, abstract, tables, and figures must be italicized. Guidelines for nomenclature and abbreviations of proteins and protein-encoding loci should be followed. Our abbreviation for millions of years ago is Ma; our abbreviation for millions of years duration (not necessarily in the past) is Myr. “et al.” is not italicized.

Contributions should be in English and clearly written. Papers not clearly written may be returned for rewriting prior to review. In general, the recommendations of The CSE Manual for Authors, Editors, and Publishers, 7th edition are followed.

Text Sections

Please order papers as follows: Abstract, Introduction, Materials & Methods, Results, Discussion, Literature Cited

Title Page.—Title page information should appear in the following format: Running head (a short title not greater than 50 characters, in all capital letters); title (in capital and lowercase letters, each important word beginning with a capital letter); authors (all on one line, or more if necessary, with superscript numbers used to match authors to addresses); and full correspondence addresses (in italic font). Each address should begin a new line. Add e-mail addresses if you wish them to be published. Identify the name, address, telephone/fax numbers, and e-mail address for the author who will receive proofs and be designated the "corresponding author" in text.

Abstract.—The abstract should be formatted in the same manner as the rest of the text. It should be concise and contain the most interesting findings from the paper. Avoid abbreviations and citations in the abstract if possible.

Keywords.—A list of 4 to 8 key words should be included at the end of the abstract. For full articles these key words will be published but for Points of View they will be used only for indexing.

Headings.—First level: Capital and small capitals; each important word should begin with a capital letter. No heading is used for the introduction. Second level: Capital and lowercase letters, each important word should begin with a capital letter, italic font. Third level: Paragraph indented, capital and lowercase letters, only the first word and proper nouns should begin with capital letters, italic font, followed by a period and a long dash (em dash), run into text.

References.—References are cited in the text as: Jones (1970); (Jones 1970); or (Jones 1970; Smith 1976, 1978) with citations that are in parenthetical groups listed in chronological order. Literature Cited is listed in a References section, with abbreviations for serial (journal) names following the American National Standard. Serial Sources for the BIOSIS Database, which is provided with Biological Abstracts, lists abbreviations for most serials. All references cited in text must be listed in the References section, and vise versa.

In the References section, all authors should be listed (no et al. used). A dash should NOT be used in place of an author's name repeated from the preceding entry; provide name of author in each subsequent citation. Details of established internal style for citations should be followed, particularly relating to order of parts, capitalization, and proper forms of abbreviation. Full page ranges should be provided for cited chapters in books and for journal articles. Consult the CSE style manual for more information.

Works “in press” may be included only if a known year and source of publication can be included. The year of publication can be added as late as the proofs stage of your manuscript. Otherwise no unpublished material may be cited (e.g., “in prep.” and “unpublished data”) unless special permission is obtained from the Editor.

Figure captions.—Figure captions should appear on a separate page after the references. Do not include figures themselves on the same page.

Appendices.—Some appendices may appear in print. When uploading the files to ScholarOne Manuscripts you can indicate which you intend for print vs. online, but the final decision will be up to the Editor-in-Chief. Appendices should be referred to as, for example, “Appendix 1” or “online Appendix 1.” Please mention online appendices or other supplemental material in the text. Consider using color in online appendices and supplemental material if it would aid the reader’s understanding, as there is no charge for color online.

Tables and Figures

Tables.—A table title should be typed in capital and lowercase letters. All units must be included. Symbols and abbreviations should be defined in the table footnotes even if they are also defined in the text (however, if they are used in subsequent tables it may be acceptable to define them only in the first table). Tables are the only exception to the rule that footnotes cannot be used in SB papers. Table footnotes should be designated by superscript lowercase letters. Each footnote should be shown in the table body and should appear with a brief explanation below the table. Footnotes should be labeled in order, starting at the upper left corner of the table and working vertically and horizontally to the lower right corner (as you would read a book).

Only horizontal lines may be used. Do not use vertical or diagonal lines. However, complicated tables (e.g. with shading of columns) can be accommodated by the publisher. Tables as document files are preferred, but we can also accept tables as Excel files. Please embed tables in the manuscript and use continuous line numbers.

Figures.—For highest figure quality we strongly prefer figures in vector format rather than bitmap. If bitmapped figures are necessary, such as photographs, the resolution should be 600 ppi. In some cases we may accept 300 ppi. When viewed in ScholarOne Manuscripts, all files are converted to PDF, which can reduce clarity. (The PDF file created by ScholarOne Manuscripts is not used for print, only for the review process.) At the end of the submission sequence you will be asked to view the PDF file. Please check the figures, and enlarge them if necessary for easy legibility; for example, if a figure has two portions it might be best to make each portion into separate figures.

On figures, use only common sans-serif fonts, such as Geneva, Helvetica, or Arial. Make the text as large as possible. Figures should be completely labeled; for example, each axis in a graph should be labeled and include units. No box should be drawn around a graph or other figure. All line weights should be 1 pt thick or close to it (0.5 is the minimum, reserved for cases in which thin lines are necessary to the legibility of the figure). Thicker lines are fine if needed.

If a figure has multiple portions they should be referred to in the caption, the text of the paper, and on the figure using lowercase letters. On the figure these letters should be placed in the upper left corner of each portion of the figure, and should be followed by a single parenthesis, e.g., "a)" rather than enclosed in double parentheses.

Please embed figures in the manuscript and use continuous line numbers. When designing figures, please keep in mind that each figure will be made either single or double column width. Abbreviations used on figures must be defined in the figure caption even if already defined in the text. If the same abbreviations are used in subsequent figures it may be acceptable to define them only on first occurrence.

Figures must be submitted as .tif, .eps, .ppt, .xls, .pdf, .gif, or .jpg files. Contact the Editorial Office if you are not able to provide figures in one of the acceptable formats.


Revision of Manuscripts

To revise your manuscript after receiving a decision email from the Editor-in-Chief, log onto ScholarOne Manuscripts and enter the Author Center, where you should find your manuscript title listed under "Manuscripts with Decisions." Under “Actions,” click on “Create a Revision.” You will be unable to make your revisions on the originally-submitted version of the manuscript. Instead, revise your manuscript on your computer, delete the old files on ScholarOne Manuscripts, and upload the new files. For the final revision, manuscripts must be submitted as document (not PDF) files.

Your response to reviewer comments must be put in the space indicated in ScholarOne Manuscripts. Do not include it only in the cover letter, although you may include the response in both areas if desired.

LaTeX manuscripts.—For the final version, please upload the actual files (.tex, .bib, style, etc.) in addition to a PDF file of the text. The LaTeX files will be used for typesetting although the copyeditor will use the PDF for formatting inquiries. In any case, the figures must each be separate files and follow the instructions for figures given above. When uploading the files, please designate all LaTeX files as well as the PDF file in the “main document” category.

Copyright Forms

Upon receipt of accepted manuscripts at Oxford Journals authors will be invited to complete an online copyright licence to publish form.

Please note that by submitting an this article for publication you confirm that you are the corresponding/submitting author and that Oxford University Press ("OUP") may retain your email address for the purpose of communicating with you about the article. You agree to notify OUP immediately if your details change. If your article is accepted for publication OUP will contact you using the email address you have used in the registration process. Please note that OUP does not retain copies of rejected articles.

Authors are responsible for obtaining permission to reproduce copyrighted material form other sources before acceptance, and once the paper is accepted they are required to give an exclusive license to publish to the Society of Systematic Biologists (SSB).

Open Access Option for Authors

Systematic Biology authors have the option to publish their paper under the Oxford Open initiative; whereby, for a charge, their paper will be made freely available online immediately upon publication. After your manuscript is accepted the corresponding author will be required to accept a mandatory licence to publish agreement. As part of the licensing process you will be asked to indicate whether or not you wish to pay for open access. If you do not select the open access option, your paper will be published with standard subscription-based access and you will not be charged.

Oxford Open articles are published under Creative Commons licences. Authors publishing in Systematic Biology can use the following Creative Commons licences for their articles:
•Creative Commons Attribution licence (CC BY)
•Creative Commons Non-Commercial licence (CC BY-NC)

You can pay Open Access charges using our Author Services site. This will enable you to pay online with a credit/debit card, or request an invoice by email or post. The open access charges applicable are:

Regular charge - £1000/ $1800 / €1300
Reduced Rate Developing country charge* - £500 / $900 / €650
Free Developing country charge* - £0 /$0 / €0

*Visit our Developing Countries page for a list of qualifying countries

Please note that these charges are in addition to any colour/page charges that may apply.

Orders from the UK will be subject to the current UK VAT charge. For orders from the rest of the European Union, OUP will assume that the service is provided for business purposes. Please provide a VAT number for yourself or your institution, and ensure you account for your own local VAT correctly.

Reuse of Oxford Open Content

Once published under the open access model, this article will be distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial License ( which permits unrestricted non-commercial use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.

Advance Access Publication

Systematic Biology Advance Access is the journal's system for the rapid online publication of articles ahead of the printed issue. Manuscripts are published online as soon as possible after they have been accepted. Beginning August 2011 accepted manuscripts are published online before copyediting and formatting have been carried out. This version is indicated by the text 'Accepted Manuscript' below the article details on our Advance Access page. A second version, which has been copyedited, typeset, and author-corrected, is then also published online ahead of print; this version is indicated by the text 'Corrected Proof'. Appearance of the accepted manuscript in Advance Access constitutes official publication, and the Advance Access version can be cited by a unique doi (digital object identifier). Both versions of the paper continue to be accessible and citable after the final version is published as part of an issue.

Potential Cover Images

An illustration is featured on the cover of each issue, the cost of which is borne by the journal. Authors are encouraged to submit high-quality photographs for possible use as a cover illustration. Photos must be submitted in color. Necessary permissions should be cleared with all third parties. Please see here and visit for more information about obtaining rights. Please provide a brief caption and include a credit for the photographer or artist (please follow instructions from third parties on crediting if specific instructions are given when permissions are obtained). Instructions on how to submit a potential cover image will be sent to you with your decision letter. Please e-mail Systematic Biology Production if you have any queries. Final cover figures will be chosen on the basis of attractiveness and general interest in addition to being related to an article in that issue.

Color Figures

Color figures should be submitted in CMYK color format. If you convert from RGB please look at your figure again because some colors display slightly differently in the two modes. The publisher has the right to refuse publication of any artwork of unacceptable quality.

SB is happy to announce the launch of the Flexible Color Option, beginning for all articles published in the 2009 volume. All figures submitted to the journal in color will be published in color online at no cost (unless the author specifically requests that their figures be in black and white online). Authors may choose to also publish their figures in color in the print journal for £350/€525/$600 per figure; you will be asked to approve this cost in an e-mail after your article is accepted for publication. You will be issued an invoice at the time of print publication.

Authors are normally expected to cover the cost of printing in color but we do have limited funds available to assist authors who cannot pay. If you article contains color figures that must appear in print, please let us know if you will unable to afford the cost at submission. The fee does not apply to images chosen by the Editor to be on the cover of the journal.

Page Proofs and Offprints

Authors will be sent page proofs via email. These must be returned within 2 business days to avoid delays in publication of the corrected proof. Authors should not expect to make major modifications to their work at this stage. To avoid delays, authors should notify the Production Editor of any address changes. If the author will be out of email contact for several days, an alternative contact person authorized to correct proofs should be identified prior to the author’s absence.

The publisher is unable to make corrections to figures. If the author wishes to make corrections to figures, new, corrected figures must be returned with the proofs.

The journal will provide authors with a URL for free access to the published version of the article.

Authors are urged to order offprints prior to publication of the corrected proof to cover anticipated needs; reordering after the issue has been published is considerably more expensive. Offprints can be ordered in increments of 50 using the Oxford Journals Author Services site, a link to which is sent by email when your paper enters production.


At the point of submission, Systematic Biology's policy requires that each author reveal any financial interests or connections, direct or indirect, or other situations that might raise the question of bias in the work reported or the conclusions, implications, or opinions stated—including pertinent commercial or other sources of funding for the individual author(s) or for the associated department(s) or organization(s), personal relationships, or direct academic competition. When considering whether you should declare a conflicting interest or connection please consider the conflict of interest test: Is there any arrangement that would embarrass you or any of your co-authors if it was to emerge after publication and you had not declared it?

As an integral part of the online submission process, corresponding authors are required to confirm whether they or their co-authors have any conflicts of interest to declare, and to provide details of these. It is the corresponding author’s responsibility to ensure that all authors adhere to this policy.


Details of all funding sources for the work in question should be given in a separate section entitled 'Funding'. This should appear before the 'Acknowledgements' section.

The following rules should be followed:

  • The sentence should begin: ‘This work was supported by …’
  • The full official funding agency name should be given, i.e.‘the National Cancer Institute at the National Institutes of Health’ or simply 'National Institutes of Health' not ‘NCI' (one of the 27 subinstitutions) or 'NCI at NIH’ (full RIN-approved list of UK funding agencies) Grant numbers should be complete and accurate and provided in brackets as follows: ‘(grant number ABX CDXXXXXX)’
  • Multiple grant numbers should be separated by a comma as follows: ‘(grant numbers ABX CDXXXXXX, EFX GHXXXXXX)’
  • Agencies should be separated by a semi-colon (plus ‘and’ before the last funding agency)
  • Where individuals need to be specified for certain sources of funding the following text should be added after the relevant agency or grant number 'to [author initials]'.

An example is given here: ‘This work was supported by the National Institutes of Health (P50 CA098252 and CA118790 to R.B.S.R.); and the Alcohol & Education Research Council (hfygr667789).’

Oxford Journals will deposit all NIH-funded articles in PubMed Central. See for details. Authors must ensure that manuscripts are clearly indicated as NIH-funded using the guidelines above.

Crossref Funding Data Registry

In order to meet your funding requirements authors are required to name their funding sources, or state if there are none, during the submission process. For further information on this process or to find out more about the CHORUS initiative please click here.