I have a long list of NCBI taxonomic ids for organisms and I want to write a script to get their corresponding translation tables. Is there a way to do this through Entrez?

(packages in R, Python etc. would be fine too)


2 Answers 2


I came up with this idea. So, the information for the translation table of any particular organism can be found on its page on the Taxonomy Browser: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/Taxonomy/Browser/wwwtax.cgi

If I search a taxid into the website, eg 7227, the page for Drosophila melanogaster will come up but the URL will remain unmodified. However, you can get a modified URL specific to a taxid by appending ?mode=Info&id=your_taxid to the above URL. Eg for D. melanogaster again, it has this unique URL for its Taxonomy browser page: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/Taxonomy/Browser/wwwtax.cgi?mode=Info&id=7227

Since you have a list of taxids, you can programmatically access Taxonomy browser pages by modifying the URL in the way I said. To programmatically get the translation tables of D. melanogaster with this approach, use the urllib package in Python.

import urllib.request
url = "https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/Taxonomy/Browser/wwwtax.cgi?mode=Info&id=7227"
weburl = urllib.request.urlopen(url)
data = weburl.read().decode("utf-8")  # decode because page returned in binary

data_s = data.split('<')

for d in data_s:
    if "Translation table" in d:

The output is:

Translation table 1 (Standard)
Translation table 5 (Invertebrate Mitochondrial)

This will work for one taxid. But you have a list of them. However, with this approach in mind, it's elementary to construct a Python function for getting the Translation table of all your taxids.

import urllib.request

my_taxids = ['7227','9606','10090']

def get_translation_table(taxid):
    url = "https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/Taxonomy/Browser/wwwtax.cgi?mode=Info&id=" + taxid
    weburl = urllib.request.urlopen(url)
    data = weburl.read().decode("utf-8")

    data_s = data.split('<')

    tr_table = []

    for d in data_s:
        if "Translation table" in d:
            tr_table += [d.split('>')[1]]

    return tr_table

your_tables = list(map(get_translation_table,my_taxids))


The output is:

[['Translation table 1 (Standard)', 'Translation table 5 (Invertebrate Mitochondrial)'], ['Translation table 1 (Standard)', 'Translation table 2 (Vertebrate Mitochondrial)'], ['Translation table 1 (Standard)', 'Translation table 2 (Vertebrate Mitochondrial)']]

And if you want the results nicely formatted into a pandas dataframe, just add:

import pandas as pd

To the top of the script, and

t = pd.DataFrame(your_tables,columns=["Nuclear","Mitochondrial"])

To the bottom. Output of this print (if you have too many taxids use the head method instead so not everything prints):

                          Nuclear                                     Mitochondrial
0  Translation table 1 (Standard)  Translation table 5 (Invertebrate Mitochondrial)
1  Translation table 1 (Standard)    Translation table 2 (Vertebrate Mitochondrial)
2  Translation table 1 (Standard)    Translation table 2 (Vertebrate Mitochondrial)

You can find them here at least: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/Taxonomy/Utils/wprintgc.cgi

You can download the complete list of codes (using FTP) here.

However, to link a specific organism to a specific codon usage table, you'll need to do a bit of extra work. Perhaps the script here can give you a starting point?

  • 2
    $\begingroup$ What I was really looking for was some way to input the taxonomic id/name of an organism and have its translation table returned. NCBI does seem to have this data for specific taxa, because a button on the page you linked ('Genetic Code in Taxonomy Tree') matches organisms with translation tables. $\endgroup$
    – weddegege
    Nov 8, 2021 at 7:16
  • $\begingroup$ Yeah, you'd need to code that together using an ASN.1 parser I guess? $\endgroup$
    – Dan Bolser
    Nov 8, 2021 at 12:07

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