Today’s specimen and observation data portals lack a flexible mechanism, able to link up thesaurus-enabled data sources such as taxonomic checklist databases and expand user queries to related terms, significantly enhancing result sets. The TOQE system (Thesaurus Optimized Query Expander) is a REST-like XML web-service implemented in Python and designed for this purpose. Acting as an interface between portals and thesauri, TOQE allows the implementation of specialized portal systems with a set of thesauri supporting its specific focus. It is both easy to use for portal programmers and easy to configure for thesaurus database holders who want to expose their system as a service for query expansions. Currently, TOQE is used in four specimen and observation data portals. The documentation is available from http://search.biocase.org/toqe/.