Catalogue of Life

The Catalogue of Life is an online database that provides the world’s most comprehensive and authoritative index of known species of animals, plants, fungi and micro-organisms. It was created in 2001 as a partnership between the global Species 2000 and the American Integrated Taxonomic Information System. The Catalogue interface is available in twelve languages and is used by research scientists, citizen scientists, educators, and policy makers.[2] The Catalogue is also used by the Biodiversity Heritage Library, the Barcode of Life Data System, Encyclopedia of Life, and the Global Biodiversity Information Facility.[3] The Catalogue currently compiles data from 168 peer-reviewed taxonomic databases, that are maintained by specialist institutions around the world. As of 2019, the Catalogue lists 1,837,565 [4] of the world's 2.2m extant species known to taxonomists on the planet at present time.[4]

The Species 2000 & ITIS Catalogue of Life
AC18 cover
Cover of DVD version of database
Type of site
Taxonomic catalogue
Available inEnglish
Alexa rankNegative increase 251,433 (April 2019)[1]
RegistrationNot required
LaunchedJune 2001
Current statusActive


The Catalogue of Life employs a simple data structure to provide information on synonymy, grouping within a taxonomic hierarchy, common names, distribution and ecological environment.[5]

The Catalogue provides a dynamic edition,[6] which is updated monthly (and in which data can change without tracking of those changes) and an Annual Checklist,[7] which provides a dated, verifiable reference for the usage of names and associated data. Development of the Catalogue of Life was funded through the Species 2000 europa (EuroCat),[8] 4d4Life,[9] i4Life[10] projects in 2003-2013, and currently by the Naturalis Biodiversity Center, Leiden, the Netherlands and Species Files group at Illinois Natural History Survey, Champaign-Urbana IL, USA.


Much of the use of the Catalogue is to provide a backbone taxonomy for other global data portals and biological collections. Through the i4Life project it has formal partnerships with Global Biodiversity Information Facility, European Nucleotide Archive, Encyclopedia of Life, European Consortium for the Barcode of Life, IUCN Red List, and Life Watch. The public interface includes both search and browse functions as well as offering multi lingual services.[3]

The Catalogue listed 300,000 species by 2003, 500,000 species by 2005, and over 800,000 species by 2006.[11] As of 2019, the Catalogue lists 1.9M extant and extinct species.[4] There are an estimated 14M mainly unpublished species, however this number is not certain as there is a lack of data on the possible number of undescribed insect, nematode, bacteria, fungus and many other species.[12]

Catalogue of Life Plus

In 2015, an expert panel presented a consensus hierarchical classification of life,[13] including some sectors not yet represented in the published Catalogue. In the same year, the Catalogue of Life, Barcode of Life Data System, Biodiversity Heritage Library, Encyclopedia of Life, and the Global Biodiversity Information Facility commenced building a single shared authoritative nomenclature and taxonomic foundation that could be used to order and connect biodiversity data, including content not yet in CoL but available via other sources. COL+ will develop a clearinghouse covering scientific names across all life, provide a single taxonomic view, and provide an avenue for feedback from content authorities.[3]

See also


  1. ^ " Site Info". Alexa Internet. Retrieved 23 April 2019.
  2. ^ Harmon, Joanie (2 December 2016). "Animal, vegetable, data: Exploring the online 'Catalogue of Life'". UCLA News Room. Retrieved 23 June 2018.
  3. ^ a b c Bánki, Olaf; Döring, Markus; Holleman, Ayco; Addink, Wouter (2018). "Catalogue of Life Plus: Innovating the CoL systems as a foundation for a clearinghouse for names and taxonomy". Biodiversity Information Science and Standards. 2: e26922. doi:10.3897/biss.2.26922.
  4. ^ a b c "Species estimates". Catalogue of Life. Species 2000. Retrieved 7 February 2019.
  5. ^ "About the Catalogue of Life: 2018 Annual Checklist". Catalogue of Life. Species 2000. Retrieved 10 May 2018.
  6. ^ "Catalogue of Life - 30th October 2017 : Search all names".
  7. ^ "Catalogue of Life - 2017 Annual Checklist : Search all names".
  8. ^ "Species 2000 europa - Welcome to Species 2000 europa". 3 February 2008. Archived from the original on 3 February 2008.CS1 maint: BOT: original-url status unknown (link)
  9. ^ Admin. "Home - 4D4Life".
  10. ^ "i4life: Indexing For Life". Archived from the original on 13 June 2013. Retrieved 4 October 2012.
  11. ^ Cachuela-Palacio, Monalisa (2006). "Towards an index of all known species: The Catalogue of Life, its rationale, design and use". Integrative Zoology. 1 (1): 18–21. doi:10.1111/j.1749-4877.2006.00007.x. PMID 21395986.
  12. ^ United Nations Environment Programme (2002). Global Environment Outlook 3: Past, Present and Future Perspectives. EarthScan Publications, London. p 120
  13. ^ Ruggiero, Michael A; Gordon, Dennis P; Orrell, Thomas M; Bailly, Nicolas; Bourgoin, Thierry; Brusca, Richard C; Cavalier-Smith, Thomas; Guiry, Michael D; Kirk, Paul M (2015). "A Higher Level Classification of All Living Organisms". PLOS One. 10 (4): e0119248. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0119248. PMID 25923521.

Further reading

External links


The Apsilocephalidae comprise a family of flies in the superfamily Asiloidea. The family was proposed in 1991.

The Apsilocephalidae are close relatives (sister group) of Therevidae distinguishable by genitalic characters. Three genera are extant and two are fossil.

Therevoid clade


Corylophidae is a family of minute hooded beetles, sometimes called minute fungus beetles, in the order Coleoptera. There are about 18 genera and at least 120 described species in Corylophidae.

Ecuadorian trogon

The Ecuadorian trogon (Trogon mesurus) is a species of bird in the family Trogonidae. It is found in deciduous and semi-humid forest and woodland in western Ecuador and far north-western Peru. It was formerly considered a subspecies of the black-tailed trogon, which it resembles, except for its white eyes. It does not currently have any subspecies listed in the Catalogue of Life.


Eucyclodes is a genus of moth in the family Geometridae. According to Catalogue of Life recent revision, only E. buprestaria is included to the genus. Other species are categorized into Chloromachia.

Fire-coloured beetle

Fire-coloured beetles are the beetles of the Pyrochroidae family, which includes the red cardinal beetles. This family contains some 150 species. Many species in the subfamily Pyrochroinae have comb- or antler-like antennae. This family also now includes most former members of the defunct family Pedilidae.

Global Biodiversity Information Facility

The Global Biodiversity Information Facility (GBIF) is an international organisation that focuses on making scientific data on biodiversity available via the Internet using web services. The data are provided by many institutions from around the world; GBIF's information architecture makes these data accessible and searchable through a single portal. Data available through the GBIF portal are primarily distribution data on plants, animals, fungi, and microbes for the world, and scientific names data.

The mission of the Global Biodiversity information Facility (GBIF) is to facilitate free and open access to biodiversity data worldwide to underpin sustainable development. Priorities, with an emphasis on promoting participation and working through partners, include mobilising biodiversity data, developing protocols and standards to ensure scientific integrity and interoperability, building an informatics architecture to allow the interlinking of diverse data types from disparate sources, promoting capacity building and catalysing development of analytical tools for improved decision-making.

GBIF strives to form informatics linkages among digital data resources from across the spectrum of biological organisation, from genes to ecosystems, and to connect these to issues important to science, society and sustainability by using georeferencing and GIS tools. It works in partnership with other international organisations such as the Catalogue of Life partnership, Biodiversity Information Standards, the Consortium for the Barcode of Life (CBOL), the Encyclopedia of Life (EOL), and GEOSS.

From 2002-2014, GBIF awarded a prestigious global award in the area of biodiversity informatics, the Ebbe Nielsen Prize, valued at €30,000 annually. As at 2018, the GBIF Secretariat currently presents two annual prizes: the GBIF Ebbe Nielsen Challenge and the Young Researchers Award.

Global Species Database

A Global Species Database (GSD) is a digital catalog of organisms often defined around a conservation purpose for the organisms of interest. GSDs attempt to be globally inclusive of species within their inclusion parameters versus local species databases. GSDs have a defined purpose, SPECIESDAB is a GSD for economically valuable fish species, while FishBase focuses on fin fish regardless of their human potential for exploitation. Attempts have been made to create GSDs for extinct species such as trilobites. A GSD can be broad in taxonomic scope, such as AlgaeBase comprehensively including algae and seagrasses from the entire planet, or narrow such as International Legume Database & Information Service, a GSD for members of a single plant family, the Fabaceae.A database restricted by geography such as Calflora focusing on California Floristic Province flowering plants and ferns is not a GSD.

The Catalogue of Life links together a number of GSDs of animals, plants, fungi, and microorganisms, such as FishBase and AlgaeBase, and integrates these at a high level through a single node facilitating ease of access to global species data.

Integrated Taxonomic Information System

The Integrated Taxonomic Information System (ITIS) is an American partnership of federal agencies designed to provide consistent and reliable information on the taxonomy of biological species. ITIS was originally formed in 1996 as an interagency group within the US federal government, involving several US federal agencies, and has now become an international body, with Canadian and Mexican government agencies participating. The database draws from a large community of taxonomic experts. Primary content staff are housed at the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History and IT services are provided by a US Geological Survey facility in Denver. The primary focus of ITIS is North American species, but many biological groups exist worldwide and ITIS collaborates with other agencies to increase its global coverage.

Interim Register of Marine and Nonmarine Genera

The Interim Register of Marine and Nonmarine Genera (IRMNG) is a taxonomic database containing the scientific names of the genus, species, and higher ranks of many plants, animals and other kingdoms, both living and extinct, within a standardized taxonomic hierarchy, with associated machine-readable information on habitat (e.g. marine/nonmarine) and extant/fossil status for the majority of entries. The database aspires to provide complete coverage of both accepted and unaccepted genus names across all kingdoms, with a subset only of species names included as a lower priority. In its March 2019 release, IRMNG contained 490,095 genus names, of which 236,514 were listed as "accepted", 120,194 "unaccepted", 7,391 of "other" status i.e. interim unpublished, nomen dubium, nomen nudum, taxon inquirendum or temporary name, and 125,996 as "uncertain" (unassessed for taxonomic status at this time). The data originate from a range of (frequently domain-specific) print, online and database sources, and are reorganised into a common data structure to support a variety of online queries, generation of individual taxon pages, and bulk data supply to other biodiversity informatics projects. IRMNG content can be queried and displayed freely via the web, and download files of the data down to the taxonomic rank of genus as at specific dates are available in the Darwin Core Archive (DwC-A) format.

The data include homonyms (with their authorities), including both available (validly published) and selected unavailable names.IRMNG was initiated in 2006 by the Ocean Biogeographic Information System (OBIS) Australia at CSIRO Marine and Atmospheric Research, and subsequently has been hosted by the Flanders Marine Institute (VLIZ) from 2016 onwards. VLIZ also hosts the World Register of Marine Species (WoRMS), using a common infrastructure.Content from IRMNG is used by several global Biodiversity Informatics projects including Open Tree of Life, the Global Biodiversity Information Facility (GBIF), and the Encyclopedia of Life (EOL), in addition to others including the Atlas of Living Australia and the Global Names Architecture (GNA)'s Global Names Resolver. From 2018 onwards, IRMNG data are also being used to populate the taxonomic hierarchy and provide generic names for a range of taxa in the areas of protists (kingdoms Protozoa and Chromista) and plant algae (Charophyta, Chlorophyta, Glaucophyta and Rhodophyta) in the Catalogue of Life. IRMNG identifiers have also been associated with numerous Wikipedia taxon pages, based on content harvested from IRMNG and stored in Wikidata.IRMNG was initiated and designed by Tony Rees. For his work on this and other projects, GBIF awarded him the 2014 Ebbe Nielsen Prize. The citation said, in part:

IRMNG in particular has been a tool of enormous importance to GBIF and others in supplying much of the detail for a global taxonomic classification of all life and as high-value taxon trait data in a form which can readily be reused in data validation and to enhance species pages.

IRMNG is currently (2019) managed and curated by Rees, with assistance from the VLIZ team.


Kateretidae is a family of short-winged flower beetles in the suborder Polyphaga. There are about 11 genera and at least 40 described species in Kateretidae.


The Lycidae are a family in the beetle order Coleoptera, members of which are commonly called net-winged beetles. These beetles are cosmopolitan, being found in Nearctic, Palearctic, Neotropical, Afrotropical, Oriental, and Australian ecoregions.


The Mycetophagidae or hairy fungus beetles are a family of beetles in the large suborder Polyphaga. The different species are between 1.0 and 6.5 mm in length. The larvae and adults live in decaying leaf litter, fungi, and under bark. Most species feed on fungi (hence the name). Worldwide, the 18 genera contain around 200 species.

Reptile Database

The Reptile Database is a scientific database that collects taxonomic information on all living reptile species (i.e. no fossil species such as dinosaurs). The database focuses on species (as opposed to higher ranks such as families) and has entries for all currently recognized ~13,000 species and their subspecies, although there is usually a lag time of up to a few months before newly described species become available online. The database collects scientific and common names, synonyms, literature references, distribution information, type information, etymology, and other taxonomically relevant information.


The Ropalomeridae are a family of acalyptrate flies.

Scaphium affine

Scaphium affine is a tree species in the family Malvaceae, subfamily Sterculioideae (previously placed in the Sterculiaceae and synonyms include Sterculia lychnophora Hance). It is native to mainland Southeast Asia and no subspecies are listed in the Catalogue of Life.It may be known as the malva nut tree, or sometimes the "Taiwan sweet gum tree" and has culinary and traditional medicinal uses, although these may also apply to the similar Scaphium macropodum (Vietnamese: ươi).

Species 2000

Species 2000 is a federation of database organizations across the world that compiles the Catalogue of Life, a comprehensive checklist of the world's species, in partnership with the Integrated Taxonomic Information System (ITIS). The creation of Species 2000 was initiated by Frank Bisby and colleagues at the University of Reading in the UK in 1997 and the Catalogue of Life was first published in 2001. While administrators and member organizations of Species 2000 are located across the world, the secretariat is located at the University of Reading.


The Tetratomidae are a small family of beetles with no vernacular common name, though recent authors have coined the name polypore fungus beetles. The family consists of several genera, most of which used to be in the family Melandryidae. The Tetratomidae can be found worldwide.Their food consists of fruiting bodies of hymenomycete fungi

The Global Lepidoptera Names Index

The Global Lepidoptera Names Index (LepIndex) is a searchable database maintained by the Department of Entomology at the Natural History Museum, London.

It is based on card indices and scanned journals, nomenclatural catalogues and the Zoological Record. It contains the majority of world's Lepidoptera names published up until 1981 and for some groups is up to date.The Global Lepidoptera Names Index or LepIndex allows anyone free internet access to:

the zoological authority who named a butterfly or moth species

where the original description was published

status of the name (valid name or synonym)It is the main source of Lepidoptera names in the Integrated Taxonomic Information System and Catalogue of Life.

Wolfram Alpha

Wolfram|Alpha (also styled WolframAlpha or Wolfram Alpha) is a computational knowledge engine or answer engine developed by Wolfram Alpha LLC, a subsidiary of Wolfram Research. It is an online service that answers factual queries directly by computing the answer from externally sourced "curated data", rather than providing a list of documents or web pages that might contain the answer as a search engine might.Wolfram|Alpha, which was released on May 18, 2009, is based on Wolfram's earlier flagship product Wolfram Mathematica, a computational platform or toolkit that encompasses computer algebra, symbolic and numerical computation, visualization, and statistics capabilities. Additional data is gathered from both academic and commercial websites such as the CIA's The World Factbook, the United States Geological Survey, a Cornell University Library publication called All About Birds, Chambers Biographical Dictionary, Dow Jones, the Catalogue of Life, CrunchBase, Best Buy, the FAA and optionally a user's Facebook account.


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