Catalogue of Life

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The Species 2000 & ITIS Catalogue of Life
AC18 cover.png
Cover of DVD version of database
Type of site
Taxonomic catalogue
Available inEnglish
Alexa rankNegative increase 201,382 (Jun 2018)[1]
Registrationnot required
LaunchedJune 2001
Current statusactive

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 is available in twelve languages and is used by research scientists, citizen scientists, educators, and policy makers.[2] The catalogue is 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 2018, the catalogue lists 1.8m of the world's 1.9m named species.[4]


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.[4]

The Catalogue provides a dynamic edition,[5] which is updated monthly (and in which data can change without tracking of those changes) and an Annual Checklist,[6] 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),[7] 4d4Life,[8] i4Life[9] 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.[10] As of 2018, the catalogue lists 1.8m of the world's 1.9m named species.[4] There are an estimated 14m species, however this number is not certain as there is a lack of data on the possible number of insect, nematode, bacteria and fungus species.[11]

Catalogue of Life Plus[edit]

In 2015, an expert panel presented a consensus hierarchical classification of life. The classification embraces 1.6 million species provided by more than 3,000 taxonomists. The unified, coherent, hierarchically-ranked system is known as the Catalogue of Life.[12]

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. 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[edit]


  1. ^ " Site Info". Alexa Internet. Retrieved 2018-06-24.
  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 "About the Catalogue of Life: 2018 Annual Checklist". Catalogue of Life. Integrated Taxonomic Information System (ITIS). Retrieved 22 May 2012.
  5. ^ "Catalogue of Life - 30th October 2017 : Search all names".
  6. ^ "Catalogue of Life - 2017 Annual Checklist : Search all names".
  7. ^ "Species 2000 europa - Welcome to Species 2000 europa". 3 February 2008. Archived from the original on 3 February 2008.
  8. ^ Admin. "Home - 4D4Life".[permanent dead link]
  9. ^ "i4life: Indexing For Life". Archived from the original on 13 June 2013. Retrieved 4 October 2012.
  10. ^ 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.
  11. ^ United Nations Environment Programme (2002). Global Environment Outlook 3: Past, Present and Future Perspectives. EarthScan Publications, London. p 120
  12. ^ 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[edit]

External links[edit]