Museum species added to new look Encyclopedia of Life

05 September 2011

Species fact files written by Natural History Museum scientists have been added to the new look Encyclopedia of Life (EOL) website, the global online project to create pages for each of the 1.8 million known species on Earth.

365 Species of the day fact files, from the giant squid to the Neanderthals, were produced by Museum experts for the 2010 UN's International Year of Biodiversity. 

The fact files are part of the new version of the EOL website unveiled today, which now has nearly 700,000 species since its launch 3 years ago.

Each EOL page is verified by experts and has species information such as physical descriptions, diseases, habitats, look-alikes and even DNA barcodes. 

The project hopes to increase awareness and understanding of life on Earth by creating and sharing information freely through the EOL website.

The new version of EOL was developed in response to requests from the people who use the website and create the pages. They are not only scientists and educators, but also people with an interest in nature but with no special scientific training, known as citizen scientists.

New EOL features 

There are more interactive features in the new EOL including virtual collections, where people create and share their own collections from 'Trees in My Backyard' to 'Invasive Insects of North America'.

There are also new interfaces for Arabic and Spanish speakers, as well as English.

EOL so far

As well as the nearly 700,000 species, EOL has over 600,000 photos and 35 million pages of scanned literature, which includes more than 93,000 natural history books scanned at the Museum as part of the Biodiversity Heritage Library (BHL) project.

Natural History Museum's Head of Library and Archives Graham Higley explains. ‘The updated version of EOL offers a great, intuitive resource that brings unique access to content from the BHL.’

‘Here at London’s Natural History Museum, we are partners in the BHL and have been working, as part of a Europe collaboration, to create a digital library from the collections of European natural history museums which in turn supports EOL.’

Museum species fact files

The Species of the day pages give a small taster of the amazing variety of life on our planet, which only last month was re-estimated to be a huge 8.7 million species for eukaryotes alone.

From species in the seas, such as Emiliania huxleyi, a tiny single-celled planktonic alga called a coccolithophore that can help reveal changes in oceans and climates (image at top of page), and a mysterious giant of the deep oceans, Architeuthis dux, the giant squid.

To species on land, such as Homo neanderthalensis, our extinct closest relatives, and Schistosoma mansoni, a 1-cm-long flatworm that causes the schistosomiasis disease affecting over 200 million people worldwide.

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