User Guide

  1. Choose which Version is best for you
  2. Decide how you would like to navigate the Catalogue
  3. Select and review a record from the search results

 

 

Getting started

The Catalogue of Life online database enables you to:

  • Find accepted scientific names of species from over 1.6 million records
  • See recorded synonyms associated with that name
  • Understand the classification of that species within a taxonomic hierarchy
  • Retrieve information on the common names and distribution of the species

 

Three easy steps to use the Catalogue of Life

Step 1: Choose which version is best for you

Step 2: Decide how you would like to navigate the Catalogue

Step 3: Select and review a record from the search results

 

 

Step 1: Choose which version is best for you

There are two distinct versions of the Catalogue: the Catalogue of Life (monthly edition) and the Annual Checklist

.

Catalogue of Life (monthly edition)

The Catalogue of Life (monthly edition) is a constantly evolving version of the Catalogue of Life. Anything can change as the list develops: names, their associated details, and their content providers - and there is no tracking of those changes. For that reason, the monthly edition is not the one to quote if you wish to cite a verifiable source.

It is, however, a great expert system helping those at the forefront of their science to track, and contribute to the development of taxonomy.

Periodic issues are progressively enhanced, in what will evolve as a dynamically developing system, made available online and as web-services.

 

Annual Checklist

The Annual Checklist is a snapshot of the entire Catalogue of Life: a fixed imprint. If you quote an organism from this version, others will be able to turn to that same reference - at any point in the future. All editions of the Annual Checklist to date are available online, and deposited in libraries around the world. Partner programmes, that link online to the Catalogue of Life, will reference the Annual Checklist.

 

Step 2: Decide how you would like to navigate the Catalogue

Browse

Or you can browse through a taxonomic hierarchy to look for names of organisms within a group

Search

You can either search for a species for which you already have a name

 

 

Browsing the Catalogue of Life

Browse menu




There are two browse options, both of which work with accepted names only:


Browse Taxonomic Tree Browse Taxonomic Classification
Locates a species by expanding each hierarchical level of taxonomic classification, starting with the top group (Kingdom) Searches a specified taxonomic group, to list all its species
Taxonomic tree example Taxonomic classification example

 


Browsing the Taxonomic tree

Browse taxonmoic tree menu

Browsing the Taxonomic tree provides the most intuitive way to explore the Catalogue of Life, providing a visual perspective on the diversity of organisms that are represented. Options are available for Compact display and Extended display.

Starting at the highest level of taxonomic hierarchy (the kingdom) you can:

  • Expand ('+') the next level to show taxa included within each group, or
  • Continue working down the tree to locate a single species (only accepted names are shown).
  • Click on any of the species names to link to the relevant species details page.
  • Expand multiple branches of the hierarchy to show relative relationships of taxa.

 

Compact Display

Compact display is the default setting, and provides an uncluttered view of taxon relationships.

example screenshot of the taxonomic tree

 

Extended Display - Options available in Extended Display:

  • Show statistics gives statistics on the number of taxa in that group
  • Show providers gives providers of the data for that group (i.e. a Global Species Database source)
  • Show thumbnail Images gives images to represent the group

Browse taxonomic tree: extended display

 


Browsing Taxonomic classification

Browse taxonomic classification menu

Browsing by Taxonomic classification allows you to search for a specific taxonomic group, enabling selection amongst taxa within it. You can skip ranks in your search (e.g. combining a search of Phylum and Order but omitting Class). The output lists all matching scientific names.

  1. Type a name into any search box or boxes. Once a few characters have been entered, any possible matches are listed:



  2. Click to list all the species in the Catalogue that belong to the selected taxa:



  3. Individual species can also be located using this browse option:



 

 

Searching the Catalogue of Life

Search menu

This menu provides options for four different types of search:

Search all names

Search across all names
i.e. scientific names (including synonyms) and common names.
This is the default search option
Search for scientific names

Search for taxa using terms in specified ranks, within scientific names
Search all names example Search scientific name example
Search for common names

search only names in common language (not scientific names)
Search by distribution

Search for species found in a specific country or region
Search common name example Search distribution example

 

 


Search all names

Search all names menu

The Search all names option will search the Catalogue of Life for all matching names: scientific names (including synonyms, and the higher ranks) and common names.

  • Type a name at the prompt and click 'Search'. Spelling must be correct.
  • All matching names will be included in the results, ordered firstly by rank.

search all

  • Unlike certain other searches, search all names will not provide dynamic matching.
  • If only the first part of a name is known, the Match whole words only option can be unselected; no wildcard character is required, so "achill" will find Achilla and Achillea.
  • Similarly, more than one incomplete word can be included: "myrt put" will find Myrtaspis putianensis.

 


Search for scientific names

Search scientific names menu

This option allows any combination of genus, species and infraspecific taxon to be searched, returning only accepted names (but also, if the query is restricted to genus, including synonyms).

As a name is typed into any of the search boxes, possible matches are displayed for selection: if more than one field is required in the search, it is best to start at the level of genus. Please see Interpreting the search results page for scientific names.

 


Search for common names

Search for common names menu

This option restricts the search to the common names of a species, with results showing those scientific names to which the chosen name relates.

Search for common names: dialog box

Unlike certain other searches, there is no dynamic search as you type. Clearing the match whole words only checkbox allows partial matches to be found. No wildcard is required for trailing characters (so MYRT will find "myrtle"), but an asterisk is required to find initial characters (ie *YRTLE will find "myrtle", but YRTLE will return nothing).

 


Search by distributiion

Search by distribution menu

Type the name of a country or region, to list the species recorded as both native and introduced.

Search by distribution dialog

A distribution search will provide a results page formatted to show all matching species.

 

Step 3: Selecting and reviewing a record from the search results

Any search of the Catalogue of Life will produce a list of matching records from the database, as a report. With a few exceptions, these reports refer to species (and their infraspecific taxa).

Search result example

 

Interpreting results

The format of a report depends upon the type of search you carried out:


Reports are paginated for viewing online (with the option to change the number of records per page), and include a link to export the report.


 

Results: Search all names

The output of a search of all names includes entries with a match to the index terms of any record:

  • scientific names
  • higher taxa
  • synonyms
  • common names.

Selecting an entry directs the user to a relevant species detail page.

Search result: all names

  1. Name

    Name will cite the matching index term: scientific name, higher taxon or common name. Species names are cited in full, with authority.

  2. Rank

    Results of a search of all names will include all ranks (up to phylum). Common names are attributed to the rank at which they apply.

  3. Name status

    Name status is cited as:

    • accepted name
    • provisionally accepted name
    • common name for [accepted name], or
    • synonym for [accepted name]

    Name status is not cited for higher taxa (the field is left blank).

  4. Group

    The highest level taxon (equivalent to kingdom) is cited for each name, according to the consensus classification adopted by the Catalogue of Life.

  5. Source database

    The source database identifies the origin of information, from one of the Global Species Databases that contribute to the Catalogue of Life.

 

Results: Search for scientific names

Certain searches provide output in the form of a list of scientific names (of species and infraspecific taxa):They are

Search results: scientific name

  1. Scientific name

    The scientific name is in standard latin form, and includes genus, species and a single infraspecific name (subspecies, variety or form).

  2. Name status

    The Catalogue of Life identifies scientific names as "accepted" or "provisionally accepted"; synonyms are not included in the list.

  3. Group

    The highest level taxon (equivalent to kingdom) is cited for each name, according to the consensus classification adopted by the Catalogue of Life.

  4. Source database

    The source database identifies the origin of information, from one of the Global Species Databases that contribute to the Catalogue of Life

 

Results: Search by common names

This report is produced from a search of common names

Search results: common names

  1. Common name
  2. Accepted scientific name
  3. Group

    The highest level taxon (equivalent to kingdom) is cited for each name, according to the consensus classification adopted by the Catalogue of Life.

  4. Source database

    The source database identifies the origin of information, from one of the Global Species Databases that contribute to the Catalogue of Life

 

Results: Search by distribution

This report is produced from a search for species by distribution.

Search results: distribution

  1. Distribution

    Distribution is cited by country, with the countries grouped firstly by continental region and secondly by continental sub-region.

    Land distribution: the TDWG 3-letter standard identifies geographic areas, though some Global Species Databases submit their data using ISO 3-letter codes.

    Marine distribution: A map defining intersects between International Hydrographic Organisation (IHO) and Economic Exclusivity Zone (EEZ) Sea Areas provides the standard definitions of marine areas for the Catalogue of Life.

  2. Name

    Name includes accepted species and infraspecific taxa.

  3. Group

    The highest level taxon (equivalent to kingdom) is cited for each name, according to the consensus classification adopted by the Catalogue of Life.

  4. Source database

    The source database identifies the origin of information, from one of the Global Species Databases that contribute to the Catalogue of Life

 

 

Species details page

This page of the Catalogue of Life provides access to all the information on a species that it contains.

The species details page is reached from a search results list.

  1. Source database logo: links to the database details page that describes the source database for the species record.
  2. Accepted scientific name: the complete scientific name for the species, including authority, along with designation as an accepted name; or a provisionally accepted name;.
  3. Synonyms: a list of synonyms for the species on record.
  4. Common names: a list of all common names for the species on record.
  5. Classification: a list showing each of the higher taxa within which this species is included, within the consensus taxonomy established for the Catalogue of Life. Selecting a higher taxon name from the list will navigate to the taxonomic hierarchy, expanded to show that higher taxon.
  6. Distribution: a list of regions and countries in which the species is recorded.
  7. Lifezones: provide one or more of the following descriptor states: Marine, Brackish, Freshwater, Terrestrial, Unknown.
  8. Additional data: Any additional information from the source database.
  9. Source database: second link to the page that describes the source database for the species record. The entry also provides a summary of database coverage: global or regional, estimated species coverage, and quality of data.
  10. Latest taxonomic scrutiny:
  11. Online resource: this links to the corresponding species page in the original resource.
  12. CoL taxon LSID: from 2008, the Catalogue of Life incorporates a unique identifier (Life Science Identifier) for every recognised taxon in the Annual Edition. The primary purpose of the LSID is to enable software services to exchange data about taxa unambiguously. Several LSID services online (as well as the Catalogue of Life) will 'resolve' LSIDs to obtain data on the taxon to which the identifier relates.

Species details page (v1.8)

 

 

Database details page

The database details page gives background information on one of the source databases that contribute to the Catalogue of Life.

Database details are accessible from search results pages (by clicking the logo), species details pages, or selecting Info > Source databases from the menu

In addition to details on the authors, version (release date) and content (including number of species), the Taxonomic coverage; section provides links to the Browse taxonomic classification page, which will have the relevant search fields already filled-in.

Database details example

 

 

How-to video

Export a species list by family name from the Catalogue of Life