Catalogue of Life 2010 Launched

© © Palmer W Cook

A catalogue detailing 1.25 million species of organisms across the world released a special edition to mark the International Year of Biodiversity.

The Catalogue of Life Special 2010 Edition is the most complete and integrated species list known to man. It has 77 databases feeding into an inventory of 1,257,735 species of plants, animals, fungi and micro-organisms associated with 2,369,683 names.

The Catalogue is recognised by the CBD and its latest developments are funded by the EC e-Infrastructures Programme (4D4Life project). The programme involves 82 partner organisations across the globe and is led by Professor Frank Bisby of the School of Biological Sciences at the University of Reading, UK.

This new edition encompasses more groups of organisms and has enhanced user functions and display features, allowing for easier access and searching of species names, relationships and additional information. The catalogue is a free electronic resource used by thousands of researchers, professionals, projects and portals worldwide and its website ( receives 40 million hits a year.

Case studies

Ghost orchid (Dendrophylax lindenii)

There are over 26,801 known species of orchid in the world. The Catalogue of Life names every one. Orchids can be found globally, even above the Arctic Circle.

Vanilla is an orchid. Orchids have developed highly specialised pollination systems and thus the chances of being pollinated are often scarce.

Many orchids are rare and threatened - like this stunning . (Sector supplied and maintained in the Catalogue by Royal Botanical Gardens Kew).


There are an astonishing 42,372 known species of Ichneumonoidea wasps in one of the largest databases in the Catalogue of Life. They are solitary insects, closely related to ants and bees. Various are used successfully as biological control agents in controlling pests such as flies or beetles. (Sector supplied and maintained in the Catalogue by the Taxapad system of Dicky Yu).

Hummingbird (Mellisuga helena)

There are 21,397 known bird species in the Catalogue of Life. This includes the smallest bird in the world, the male bee ), which is about the size of a large bee. The female bee hummingbird builds a nest that is only about 1 inch in diameter. In this nest she lays her eggs, which are smaller than coffee beans. (Sector supplied and maintained in the Catalogue by ITIS).


The catalogue holds 5,747 species of Odonata - dragonflies and damselflies. From fossil records we know that these amazing insects were flying some 300 million years ago, before even dinosaurs roamed the earth. The prehistoric "giant dragonflies" had wingspans of more than 75 cm (2.5 ft). (Sector supplied and maintained in the Catalogue by Jan van Tol at NCB Naturalis, Leiden).

The Catalogue of Life is co-ordinated by the international Species 2000 organisation based at University of Reading, UK and the Integrated Taxonomic information System (ITIS) based in Washington DC.

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