About the Catalogue of Life

The Species 2000 & ITIS Catalogue of Life

Frank Bisby "The Catalogue of Life is the most comprehensive and authoritative global index of species currently available. It consists of a single integrated species checklist and taxonomic hierarchy."
Frank Bisby (1945—2011) was leader of the Catalogue of Life project from its very beginning. His inspirational vision and spirit remains with all of us.

The Catalogue of Life (CoL) is the nearest thing to a comprehensive catalogue of all known species of organisms on Earth. Continuous progress is made towards completion, and this edition contains 1,606,554 species. Please note that this is probably just over three quarters of the world's known species. This means that for many groups it continues to be deficient, and users will notice that many species are still missing from the Catalogue.

The present Catalogue is compiled with sectors provided by 151 taxonomic databases from around the world. Many of these contain taxonomic data and opinions from extensive networks of specialists, so that the complete work contains contributions from more than 3,000 specialists from throughout the taxonomic profession. Species 2000 and ITIS teams peer review databases, select appropriate sectors and integrate the sectors into a single coherent catalogue with a single hierarchical classification.

"Like all science the Catalogue of Life is a work in progress. Your contributions and feedback are essential to further improve quality and coverage of the Catalogue of Life" - Peter H. Schalk, Executive Secretary for Species 2000.

The network and e-infrastructure for the CoL was realized step-wise in a number of projects mainly with investments from the EC but also other sources around the world. The unified workflow brings the Annual Checklist and Dynamic Checklist into unified workflow – The Catalogue of Life. The CoL Workbench tool is in use for data harvesting and final processing of the Catalogue of Life editions since September 2011.

• The Catalogue of Life (monthly updated editions)
These are progressively enhanced editions in what becomes a dynamically developing system, made available online with additional web-services. We switched to monthly editions in February 2012. At all times the latest release is available for online access at www.catalogueoflife.org/col. The announcement of every new release is published on CoL Twitter (twitter.com/catalogueoflife).

• Annual Checklist of the Catalogue of Life
Published each April as fixed online edition with web-services, and on DVD. At all times the latest Annual Checklist is online at www.catalogueoflife.org/annual-checklist. A fixed edition that is published, archived and deposited in public libraries, that can be cited, and that can be used as a common catalogue for comparative purposes by many organisations. A copy is on this DVD, which is distributed free of charge, and identical copies are viewable and downloadable on the website. The archive edition for 2015 is at www.catalogueoflife.org/annual-checklist/2015. Archive editions of previous years can be found by changing the year in the URL (e.g. /2014, /2013 etc.), and downloadable versions and web-services can be found at www.catalogueoflife.org.

The Catalogue of Life history

In June 2001 the Species 2000 and ITIS organisations, that had previously worked separately, decided to work together to create the Catalogue of Life, estimated at 1.9 million species (Chapman, 2009). The two organisations remain separate and different in structure. However, by working together in creating a common product, the partnership has enabled them to reduce duplication of effort, make better use of resources, and to accelerate production. The combined Annual Checklist has become well established as a cited reference used for data compilation and comparison. For instance, it is used as the principal taxonomic index in the GBIF and EoL data portals and recognised by the CBD.

The policy for the Catalogue of Life programme is developed by the CoL Global Team: Michael Ruggiero (Chairman, USA), Nicolas Bailly (Vice Chairman, Convener of the Taxonomy Group, Greece), Thierry Bourgoin (France), Jerry Cooper (New Zealand), Mark Costello (New Zealand), Alastair Culham (UK), David Eades (USA), Christina Flann (The Netherlands), Li-Qiang Ji (China), Jeya Kathirithamby (UK), Patricia Mergen (Belgium), Chris Meyer (USA), Gilberto Moraes (Brazil), Thomas Orrell (USA), Richard Pyle (USA), Heimo Rainer (Austria), Tony Rees (Australia), David Remsen (Convener of the Information Systems Group, USA), Leen Vandepitte (Belgium) and Richard White (UK), with further assistance from the Regional Hubs.

About ITIS

The Integrated Taxonomic Information System (ITIS) is a partnership of federal agencies and other organizations from the United States, Canada, and Mexico, with data stewards and experts from around the world (see www.itis.gov). The ITIS database is an automated reference of scientific and common names of biota of interest to North America and includes global treatment for many groups. ITIS contains more than 788,000 scientific and common names in all kingdoms. ITIS is an associate member of GBIF and supplies both global and New World groups to the Catalogue of Life - with emphasis on GSDs.

ITIS is managed by Gerald Guala (Director), Thomas Orrell (Deputy Director), David Nicolson (Data Development Leader), Mike Frame (Information Technology Leader), Roy McDiarmid (Taxonomy Leader), James Macklin (ITIS-Canada Director), and Patricia Koleff (SIIT-Mexico Director). They are advised and supported by the ITIS Steering Committee and ITIS Data Stewards.

About Species 2000

Species 2000 (www.sp2000.org) is an autonomous federation of taxonomic database custodians, involving taxonomists throughout the world. The goal is to collate a uniform and validated index to the world's known species: the Catalogue of Life. Species 2000 is registered as a not-for-profit company limited by guarantee (registered in England No. 3479405) with taxonomic database and relevant software organisations from around the world as members. Species 2000 started from a TDWG Task Group in 1996; sponsored by CODATA, IUBS and IUMS. It is an associate participant in GBIF, recognised authority by UNEP, CBD, IPBES and providing a validated taxonomic backbone GBIF, EBI/NSDC, Barcode of Life, IUCN Red List, EoL and many other initiatives aggregating data or producing services.

Species 2000 is governed by an elected Board of Directors that deals with legal and financial matters, and that is advised by the CoL Global Team on scientific policy and information and communications technology (ICT). The Directors are presently: Peter Schalk (Chairman, the Netherlands), Alex Gray (Secretary and Treasurer, UK), Guy Cochrane (UK), David Eades (USA), Francisco Hernandez (Belgium), Keping Ma (China), Vanderlei Perez Canhos (Brazil), Michael Ruggiero (Chairman of CoL Global Team, USA) & Jan van Tol (the Netherlands).

Structure of the Catalogue of Life

The goal is to list every distinct species in each group of organisms. At present, some groups are globally complete, some are represented by global sectors that are nearing completion, and others are represented by partial sectors. The global sectors, whether complete or not, are provided by selected, peer reviewed global species databases (GSDs - see definition below) in the Species 2000 federation or by equivalent global sectors of ITIS. In 2015 the Catalogue of Life will expand its coverage for fossil taxa.

The partial sectors in the Catalogue of Life are supplied by regional species databases as ITIS Regional (North America), NZIB (New Zealand), Catalogue of Life China, Australian Faunal Directory, and by thematic databases as WoRMS (marine species) and FADA (freshwater species). Sometime, regional and thematic checklists are the only available resources for these incomplete groups at the time. Regional and thematic checklists have been assembled in CoL proto-GSDs. Proto-GSD is a taxonomic database with draft species checklist, which is built from regional, thematic and nomenclatural databases, using semi-automatic procedures for merging species lists under single management classification, without detailed scrutiny by taxon specialists. Since 2013, the Catalogue of Life contains experimental proto-GSDs to fill major gaps in the phyla Mollusca, Platyhelminthes, Myxozoa and in the class Clitellata (Annelida). New proto-GSDs for Acanthocephala and copepod classes Calanoida & Poecilostomatoida have been added in 2015. Proto-GSD is a temporarily solution until global checklist become available.

Each species in the Catalogue of Life is listed with an accepted scientific name, a cited reference and its position in the hierarchical classification. Additional common names and synonyms may be provided, but these data are not complete, and for some species none may exist. The complete list of fields (known as the "Catalogue of Life Standard Dataset") is given below:

More detailed information about the Standard Dataset is available on the Catalogue of Life website (www.catalogueoflife.org)

Each species is linked via the genus and family to the taxonomic classification. Above the node of attachment of each data sector this classification has been agreed by Species 2000 and ITIS as a practical management tool to provide access to the Catalogue of Life. However, below the node of attachment the classification originates from the supplier databases and so may change with each update.

The top levels of the management classification were set in 2005, as the CoL Management Classification. Please read the draft discussion document "Towards a management hierarchy (classification) for the Catalogue of Life" by Dennis Gordon, appended to this edition of the Catalogue of Life (www.catalogueoflife.org/annual-checklist/2015/info/hierarchy).

Where available from the suppliers, infraspecific taxa such as subspecies, varieties and forms have also been included but this coverage is variable between taxonomic sectors.

Where possible, a web link to species page in the supplier's own database is provided at the bottom of each CoL Species Details page.

Functionality of the Catalogue of Life

• Species (and infraspecific taxa) can be located either by searching by name or by tracking down through the hierarchical classification.
• Searching by name can be done using accepted scientific name, synonym or common name. Automatic synonymic and common name indexing takes the user directly to the species under its accepted name. The search can use part names, or be restricted to complete words.
• Tracking down the tree or classification uses accepted names for taxa.
• On each species details page the relevant higher taxa are listed, and provide a link to the relevant node of the hierarchical classification.
• The species details pages link to the source database, usually showing further information.
• A full species list for each higher taxon in the classification can be accessed via option Browse Taxonomic Classification.
• Number of species for each taxon in the Catalogue can be found in the Taxonomic Tree. We are planning to add species estimation figures and display completeness of the checklists by taxa in next editions of the Catalogue.
• Names of supplier databases are visible with each taxon in the Taxonomic Tree.
• The operational menu of the Catalogue now can be shown in different languages. The list of available languages will be expanded in next editions.
• A standard bibliographic citation for each contributing database can be copied and passed from How To Cite page

The DVD contains the Annual Checklist dataset and the software identical to that used on the Web. The structure of the Annual Checklist database has been optimised for performance with the user interface but is not ideal for importing to other systems. The content may be copied subject to the copyright conditions given on the inside cover of the booklet.