Archive for Monday, April 9, 2007

Effort to catalog all living species tops 1M

April 9, 2007

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— A worldwide scientific effort to catalog every living species has topped the 1 million milestone.

Six years into the program, the total has reached 1,009,000, researchers report. They hope to complete the listing by 2011, reaching an expected total of about 1.75 million species.

Thomas M. Orrell, a biologist at the Smithsonian's National Museum of Natural History, said the finished catalog will include all known living organisms, from plants and animals to fungi and microorganisms such as bacteria, protozoa and viruses.

"Many are surprised that, despite over two centuries of work by biologists and the current worldwide interest in biodiversity, there is presently no comprehensive catalog of all known species of organisms on Earth," Orrell said.

The listing does not include fossil species from the past.

The Integrated Taxonomic Information System-Species 2000 Catalog of Life provides access to data maintained by a variety of scientific organizations, each specializing in a certain area.

For example, information on dipteran flies is maintained by the Agriculture Department's Systematic Entomology Laboratory at the Smithsonian's National Museum of Natural History.

Natural history museums in London, the Netherlands and New York maintain clothes moth, dragonfly and spider data. Experts in Canada and Paris keep the data on Ichneumon wasps and longhorn beetles.

These lists are peer-reviewed and checked technically, and then integrated into special software for the catalog.

The project, involving some 3,000 biologists, is led by Frank Bisby of the University of Reading in England and Orrell.

Having internationally accepted standards for species' names will help researchers compare the diversity of life in various regions of the world and produce uniform catalogs of germs, packets of seeds or genetic resources, he said.

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