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LepIndex is essentially a computerised and updated version of the Natural History Museum's (NHM) card index archive to the scientific names of the living and fossil butterflies and moths (Lepidoptera) of the world. With about 137,441 species known so far (see Current coverage of LepIndex), the Lepidoptera represent approximately 10% of the 1,413,000 or so known species of living organisms on this planet (Wilson, 1992). Although attempts have been made to catalogue all published Lepidoptera names (eg the Lepidopterorum Catalogus published in parts between 1911 and 1939), none of the catalogues begun in the last 100 years has been completed. When LepIndex is fully operational it will be the only comprehensive global catalogue of this ecologically and economically important group of insects available (see Current coverage of LepIndex). LepIndex will enable anyone with access to the Internet to quickly find information such as who named a butterfly or moth species and where the original description was published.

The card index on which LepIndex is based was produced by NHM taxonomists over many decades and it currently holds 290,099 cards, each with bibliographical data and other information relating to a single scientific name (genus-group, species-group, or infrasubspecific). The index (which contains about 98% of all Lepidoptera names published between 1758 and 1981, plus misspellings and misidentifications) is an internationally important resource, which until now has only been available to NHM staff and to visitors to the museum. Its scientific importance is demonstrated by the fact that several major nomenclatural catalogues have been produced from information in it. These include catalogues of world Noctuidae (Poole, 1989) and Geometridae (Scoble, 1999), Gaden Robinson's Global Taxonomic Database of Tineidae, and the six volume Generic Names of Moths of the World (Nye (1975), Fletcher (1979), Watson, Fletcher & Nye (1980), Fletcher & Nye (1982, 1984), and Nye & Fletcher (1991)), an updated electronic version of which is available.

Although primarily intended for use by professional and amateur lepidopterists, LepIndex should also be of value to conservationists, ecologists, pest managers, and others who need to check the names and bibliographic details of the Lepidoptera with which they are working.

Please note: If you cannot find a Lepidoptera name in LepIndex (eg names published after 1981) we suggest you consult Butterflies & Moths of the World: Generic Names & their Type-species (Pitkin & Jenkins, 2002) if it is a genus-group name, or the printed or electronic version of Zoological Record if it is a name below subgeneric rank (the Zoological Record is available in electronic format from 1978).

Viadocs projectWritten by George Beccaloni Feb. 2003. Last updated 21-May-2004