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 November 5, 2004 [posted]
November 30, 2004 [note added]
 2005 MeSH Changes to Hominidae and the Check Tag Human; Resulting PubMed and NLM Catalog Change to Search for Animals

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eSH is updating the taxonomy of HOMINIDAE, the family comprising bipedal primate mammals, which includes humans. Here is a summary of the changes for 2005:

  1. The descriptor for the family PONGIDAE will be deleted because it is considered obsolete. Its children will be indented under HOMINIDAE.

  2. Pongidae will be retained as an entry term on HOMINIDAE.

  3. The check tag HUMAN will be changed to a new descriptor HUMANS. It will function as both a descriptor and a check tag and will be indented under HOMINIDAE in the MeSH hierarchy, which, in turn, is indented under Animals.

    A check tag is a MeSH heading that is looked for routinely by indexers in every journal article. A check tag is used for online searching in the same way as a descriptor, but a check tag like Human is never considered to be the main (or major) point of an article.

  4. HUMANS will have several entry terms, including some that were previously under HOMINIDAE namely, Homo sapiens, and Man (Taxonomy).
2004 Tree 2005 Tree
Animals Animals
  Chordata   Chordata
    Vertebrates     Vertebrates
      Mammals       Mammals
        Primates         Primates
          Haplorhini           Haplorhini
            Hominidae             Hominidae
            Pongidae                   Gorilla gorilla
                  Gorilla gorilla                   Humans
                  Pan paniscus                   Pan paniscus
                  Pan troglodytes                   Pan troglodytes
                  Pongo pygmaeus                   Pongo pygmaeus

Below are the revised descriptors with scope notes and cross references:

Family of the suborder HAPLORHINI (Anthropoidea) comprising bipedal primate MAMMALS. It includes modern man (HOMO SAPIENS) and the great apes: gorillas (GORILLA GORILLA), chimpanzees (PAN PANISCUS and PAN TROGLODYTES), and orangutans (PONGO PYGMAEUS).

Entry Term: Apes
Entry Term: Hominids
Entry Term: Homo
Entry Term: Pongidae

Members of the species Homo sapiens.

Entry Term: Homo sapiens
Entry Term: Man (Taxonomy)
Entry Term: Human
Entry Term: Man, Modern

[Note: As "Human" will be retained as an entry term (cross reference) for "Humans," PubMed searches for Human will map to the new term, "Humans."]

Helpful hints for PubMed and NLM Catalog searchers:

As a result of the changes made to MeSH for 2005, Humans is now an indention under Animals. Therefore, searchers interested in retrieving animal studies should be aware of the following changes to PubMed.

1. In Limits, two changes are being made:

a. the pull-down labels for Human or Animal will be changed to the plural forms to agree with the preferred names for these MeSH Headings, i.e.:

Humans or Animals

b. If Animals is selected, PubMed will search:

animals [MeSH Terms:noexp]

The addition of ":noexp" to the MeSH search tag tells PubMed, "Do not explode the term." This change in how PubMed searches is being made as NLM expects most users want to retain the ability to limit to animal studies. If "Animals" were allowed to explode, the search would include the MeSH check tag, "Humans."

Please Note:

  • If Humans is selected in Limits, PubMed will search this term as:

    "humans"[MeSH Terms]

    It is not necessary to turn off the explode as there are no indentions under Humans in the 2005 MeSH.

  • Many journal articles include a discussion of both humans and animals. Those articles are routinely indexed with both of the corresponding MeSH headings, Humans and Animals; therefore, the selection of Animals may retrieve citations indexed also with Humans and vice versa. For this reason, searchers should also avoid using NOT to exclude Humans or Animals from their retrieval.

2. In the query box, whenever Animals or any of its entry terms are entered without a search tag, PubMed and the NLM Catalog will bypass the normal Automatic Term Mapping feature and will add the instruction not to explode as follows:


will be translated and searched as:

"animals"[MeSH Terms:noexp] OR animal [Text Word]

Again, NLM thinks most users who do not use a search tag would prefer to retrieve the traditional check tag meaning of Animals (i.e., animals other than humans) when in the query box.

3. Please note that any search for Animals or any of its entry terms when entered or selected with any tag interpreted as a MeSH Heading, e.g., [MH], will be treated according to the normal translation which includes the explosion of the heading to retrieve the heading and all of its indentions. This means that all such searches for animals [mh] will include citations indexed to Humans, starting with the 2005 system. Examples of this are:

a. using the search tag with the term in the query box, e.g.: animal [mh]. (Use animal [mh:noexp] to prevent the explosion.)

b. selecting Animals from one of the MeSH indexes under the Preview/Index tab

c. building a search from the MeSH database where the [MeSH Terms] tag is supplied by the system (unless the user selects the Do Not Explode this term option on the Full display).

4. Employing the tag for MeSH [mh] or MeSH Major Topic [majr] in 2005 will be the only way to retrieve Animals and all its indentions, including Humans, in a search.

5. The singular form Human is being retained as a MeSH entry term to the new preferred plural form Humans. Both will retrieve the same citations back through 1966. This heading is used frequently in MEDLINE (about 8.5 million citations).

6. The translation of an untagged search for Humans or any of its entry terms will change as follows.

For 2004, human is searched as:

"human"[MeSH Terms] OR "hominidae"[MeSH Terms] OR human[Text Word]

For 2005, human will be searched as:

"humans"[MeSH Terms] OR human[Text Word]

The "Hominidae"[MeSH Terms] portion of the translated search (which came from the UMLS mapping) will be omitted because the MeSH children of Hominidae for 2005 will include gorillas, orangutans, and chimpanzees as well as humans.

For more information or questions about 2005 MeSH, please see the MeSH home page. For questions about searching PubMed or the NLM Catalog, send an email to

[Editor's Note: The 2005 examples may be affected by the automatic term mapping enhancement implemented on November 22, 2004.]

By Allan Savage
MeSH Section
Lou Wave S. Knecht
Bibliographic Services Division

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Savage A, Knecht LS. 2005 MeSH Changes to Hominidae and the Check Tag Human; Resulting PubMed and NLM Catalog Change to Search for Animals. NLM Tech Bull. 2004 Nov-Dec;(341):e6.


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