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July 29, 2021 / by Chantal Huijbers

COL Checklist 2021

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The Catalogue of Life (COL) is the most complete authoritative list of the world’s species, maintained by hundreds of global taxonomists. As a global consortium, we aim to address the needs of researchers, policy-makers, environmental managers and the wider public for a consistent and up-to-date listing of all the world’s known species. We are happy to announce that we have just published the COL Checklist 2021 online!

The COL Checklist 2021 contains over 2 million accepted species. About 1.9 million are living species, and the rest are extinct. A large community of taxonomists representing 165 data sources is underpinning this global species list. The COL Checklist 2021 is served through the new COL infrastructure. This consists of the new COL Portal, ChecklistBank, and COL API developed in close partnership with the Global Biodiversity Information Facility (GBIF). Through the new portal and API monthly updates of the COL Checklist will be available. ChecklistBank will serve as a common repository for publishing and making available authoritative taxonomic checklists. Due to the development of this new infrastructure, we did not release an annual Checklist in 2020.

What’s new in the COL Checklist 2021?

In comparison to the Catalogue of Life Checklist of 2019, there are 8 new checklists:

  • Alucitoidea (many-plumed and false plume moths)
  • (springtails)
  • Sepidiini tribe (toktokkies)
  • World Catalogue of Opiliones (harvestmen)
  • WoRMS Brachiopoda (replaced Brachiopoda by Emig et al.)
  • WoRMS Crinoidea
  • WoRMS Euphausiacea (replaced ETI Euphausiacea)
  • WoRMS Nematoda

Furthermore, 81 checklists have been updated since the COL Checklist 2019:

  • 3i Auchenorrhyncha
  • 3i Curculio
  • Brassicaceae
  • Catalogue of Craneflies of the World (CCW)
  • Fulgoromorpha Lists On the Web (FLOW)
  • HymIS Pompilidae (separated from HymIS Crabronidae & Rhopalosomatidae)
  • International Committee on Taxonomy of Viruses (ICTV)
  • ITIS (10 automated updates; new sectors: families Acanthosomatidae, Achelata, Alpheidae, Cimicidae, Polychelida, Polyctenidae, Smarididae, Varroidae, superfamily Calyptostomatoidea, infraorders Astacidea, Glypheidea, Stenopodidea & order Lophogastrida)
  • Nomenclatural Database of Eumycetozoa (Myxomycota)
  • Pterophoroidea (4 updates)
  • The Reptile Database (2 updates)
  • World Scarabaeidae Database (11 updates)
  • Species Fungorum Plus (including 9 previously independent GSDs; also replaced LIAS)
  • Systema Dipterorum
  • The Scorpion Files
  • ThripsWiki
  • World Ferns (6 updates)
  • World Plants (5 updates)
  • WoRMS, 60 checklists (4 automated updates)
  • World Spider Catalog
  • WTaxa

Identifiers and licenses for better sharing and tracking

Also new is that the Catalogue of Life Checklist 2021 as a whole and each of the sources within the catalogue are now issued with a Digital Object Identifier (DOI) On top of that, the majority of checklists have agreed to apply a Creative Commons license (CC BY or CC 0) to the data. The combination of a DOI and a CC license has multiple benefits for those who share data as well as those who access it. Users gain certainty about their obligations in using these data. Creative Commons licences are widely recognised and understood, which encourages use. This focus on the importance of good citation practices and the use of DOIs as the tool for referring to datasets are expected to lead to more citations and more precise citations, making it possible for data publishers to see exactly where their data have been used. With establishing these two components, COL aims to follow best practices for datasets of widespread use to the research community, and encourage and track clear attribution of the work of all COL contributors.


We aim to continuously improve the Catalogue of Life Checklist and infrastructure, and we welcome any feedback on missing information or features, bugs, or suggestions for enhancements. Please send us your comments and suggestions at We also encourage all users of the Catalogue of Life to subscribe to our mailinglist.