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Biotech The Media Science

Open Species Database Breaks Half-Million Mark 32

ferienhausversicherung writes "Biologists estimate that about 1.75 million species, from bacteria to blue whales, have already been identified on Earth. But there may be anywhere between 3 million and 12 million more yet to be discovered. An online catalogue of all known life on Earth now has half a million species in its freely available database. Another promising effort is Wikispecies. Started in August 2004, this is an offshoot of the Wikimedia group, whose free online encyclopaedia is constructed by users themselves." (And Wikipedia itself is about to publish its 500,000th English entry -- if you hurry, perhaps it will be yours.)
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Open Species Database Breaks Half-Million Mark

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday March 16, 2005 @04:43PM (#11957384)
    A terrestrial ecoregion map of the Earth is available from the National Geographic Society and WWF - United States as their "terrestrial ecoregion map" [nationalgeographic.com] showing the 8 terrestrial ecozones. According to WWF-US this is "a project which involves describing, mapping and photographically representing 867 Terrestrial Ecoregions of the World. These ecoregions are divided based upon geography, climate, soils, and vegetation... technical descriptions, species lists, educational excerpts, and photographic depictions of each ecoregion... for educational purposes only."

    Understanding most environmental security problems requires some base map. Unfortunately these maps are not available generally in digital map form, which is one reason a digital ecoregion map [livingplatform.ca] standard is required.

    There is a digital map petition urging the publishers to make the material available electronically under Creative-Commons by-nc-sa [livingplatform.ca]. This helps those interested in helping preserve the 238 Global 200 priority ecoregions and complements WWF's own plans: "Every school in the United States will be sent 10 ecoregion maps and teachers guides to get students interested in visiting the web page. Each ecoregion page will include educational descriptions highlighting important biodiversity features of the ecoregion and a summary of the conservation situation. The technical descriptions detail the biology and status of each ecoregion. There also will be one or more photographs depicting the natural habitat of each ecoregion. It has been a Herculean task to gather photographs of natural habitats of the world. We could not have accomplished as much as we have without your willingness to contribute your images." - David M. Olson, Ph.D., Director, Conservation Science Program, World Wildlife Fund US, email: david.olson wwfus org.

    Current the WWF-US seeks only [zaptron.com] "a) the right to publish the photographs on the World Wide Web as part of the Wild World educational web site created by WWF in association with National Geographic Society, underwritten by Ford Motor Company; b) The right to crop and otherwise alter and edit the photographs, as WWF deems appropriate, to fit space or to enhance the function or effectiveness of use of the photographs."

    This comment is licensed under CC-by-nc-sa 2.0 [creativecommons.org] - see http://www.livingplatform.ca/tiki-index.php?page=e coregion+map [livingplatform.ca].
  • wikispecies (Score:3, Interesting)

    by jericho4.0 ( 565125 ) on Wednesday March 16, 2005 @04:47PM (#11957435)
    Wikispecies is pretty slim right now. If you keep clicking 'random page' all you get is 'Taxonavigation' index pages....I suppose it has to start somewhere.

    Wouldn't it be more usefull integrated with the Open Species Database?

  • Strange how people seem to be more interested in finding life on other planets, while we still haven't even found everything here yet.

    This achievement is great and all, but is there a link to the aforementioned database?
    • Re:I find it funny (Score:3, Insightful)

      by FleaPlus ( 6935 )
      One goal involves understanding Earth's biosphere more thoroughly. The other goal involves discovering a completely new biosphere, likely to be radically different from our own. Both are important, and I'm not sure why you find it strange that some people would happen to be more interested in one than the other.
    • Re:I find it funny (Score:1, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward
      > Strange how people seem to be more interested in finding life on other planets

      No it isn't. Finding life on other planets would be the most important find since fire. It would change the religious and philosophic views of billions of people. It would mean we are not alone. It would teach us a great deal.

      Finding another version of a spotted frog or deep sea worm is pretty great, but pales in comparison to the above.
      • No it isn't. Finding life on other planets would be the most important find since fire. It would change the religious and philosophic views of billions of people.

        Not to understate the importance of such a find, but how would this change anyone's religious or philosophic views?

        I don't know of any religious teaching that address life on other planets, but then I don't know of any religious teaching that address nuclear fusion either.

        I'm not trying to be a smart ass (although probably succeding), I'm just
        • Re:I find it funny (Score:1, Interesting)

          by Anonymous Coward
          Not the other poster, but I heard a CNN interviewer asking NASA folks about the possible religious impact of finding life on mars.

          The whole "religious impact" meme surely didn't just pop out of thin air. There is probably a minority of people out there who insist that Earth is the only planet with life in the universe.
          • Re:I find it funny (Score:3, Interesting)

            by tigersha ( 151319 )
            TO some degree this is because they have not thought about it. Most people will not give you an answer because it has never entered their minds.

            THe queestion is, what will happen IF we discover life, especially intelligent life out there. I once attended a discussion by fundamentalist Christians about the issue and they immediately stated that bringing the word to the Aliens would be an immediate priority. For most people first contact would probably be meaningless in any case especially if we find microor
    • You know what I find funny? The fact that we don't know everything about chemistry yet some people are interested in history. Some people even devote their entire lives to the study of history. All the while we don't know everything there is to know about chemistry. I've never understood that.
  • does anyone else find it odd that such articles (i'm talking about nature.com's article, not the /. article) rarely include actual links to the websites they're referring to? I swear, this is like a conspiracy of the journalists...
    • I was just going to say that. Seriously guys, it's like: "New website has cure for cancer!!", then go on to talk about cancer and a cure, but never mention it. I can google and all, but it sounds like these dudes are still stuck in the paper age... "Why would I put a link?". duh.
  • by Smilin ( 840286 ) on Wednesday March 16, 2005 @05:56PM (#11958339)
    Is is just me or does this seem a really bad idea? With Wikipedia you know what you are getting. The information is most likly correct but you'll take it with a grain of salt just to be sure. You don't really go there when doing research right?

    With Wikispecies it's information that is scientific in nature and accuracy becomes paramount.

    How long until everyone settles on the truly accurate definition of the Basselope? How about the purple-headed trowser snake?

    Bad idea I say.
  • On Extinction (Score:4, Interesting)

    by oni ( 41625 ) on Wednesday March 16, 2005 @06:16PM (#11958581) Homepage
    I'll probably get flamed for this, but the fact is that there are millions of species on Earth, and as part of the natural process of evolution hundreds of new ones evolve every year - but the other side of that coin is that hundreds go extinct every year. We have to balance environmentalism with a healthy dose of logic. We can't cry over every extinct species, and we can't preserve them all.

    Obviously, I'm not talking about successful species that are hunted to extinction by humans. I know I'm going to get 50 replies from people who swell up with emotion and react to my words rather than thinking about them, who are going to say, "yeah, but humans cause extinctions." I know that. Thanks. My point is that there are millions of species on the planet and extinction and evolution is a natural process that occurs whether humans exist or not.

    I just finished reading Bill Bryson's excellent book, A Short History of Nearly Everything. There's a great story about a tiny island off the coast of New Zealand. The first human to ever live on that island was a lighthouse keeper. It turned out, he had a cat. Every few days, the cat would drag the carcass of a dead bird into the house. The lighthouse keeper sent one of these dead birds to a university professor who recognized that it was a new species, never before seen by science. The professor made the trip down to the island, but by the time he got there, the cat had killed every bird on the little island. Apparently, those birds didn't live anywhere else. They've never been seen again. In less than a year, one cat had made an entire species extinct.

    Many an environmentalist will tell you that the point of the story is how destructive human beings are. But I think that if you look at this logically, you'll draw a different conclusion. Long before man arrived, that species of bird had failed to evolve a solid foothold in its ecosystem. With all of New Zealand right there, the best that bird could do was live on one tiny island. It's true, that cat wiped them out. But it's also true that, all by itself and without any human influence, that species had dwindled to down to a population tiny enough to be destroyed by one cat. Had the cat not come along, the next hurricane to hit the island would have made them extinct anyway.

    So, there are millions of species on our planet, and I think we should study and catalog all of them. But let's also acknowledge the fact that no matter what we do, 99.9% of those species are going to be evolutionary dead ends.
    • Re:On Extinction (Score:1, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward
      Not every species is equally important. If the hundreds of extinct species are large mammals, and the hundreds of new species are bacteria, then soon we'll be back to a primitive Earth with bacteria only.
    • Re:On Extinction (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Seraphim_72 ( 622457 )

      But I think that if you look at this logically, you'll draw a different conclusion. Long before man arrived, that species of bird had failed to evolve a solid foothold in its ecosystem. With all of New Zealand right there, the best that bird could do was live on one tiny island.

      ...Or perhaps the species had reacently come about and was waiting for said hurricane to blow it to other islands to help its own little Diaspora. Or perhaps it's evolution had just started and given another hundred years populati

    • We have to balance environmentalism with a healthy dose of logic.

      Uh-oh, look out. Here comes "logic," which really means "you're an idiot if you don't see things my way."

      I just finished reading Bill Bryson's excellent book, A Short History of Nearly Everything.

      Then you might also try reading "Song of the Dodo," by David Quammen. In it Quammen details incidents just such as this, which are all really about the topic of island bio-geography. You'll realize that the bird hadn't "failed to evolve a sol

  • I noticed they actually had an entry for homo sapiens, which is better
    than many books of that sort remember. That puts it one step ahead
    of print already :)
  • Uhh, LINK?! (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Palshife ( 60519 ) on Thursday March 17, 2005 @01:30AM (#11962373) Homepage
    An online catalogue of all known life on Earth now has half a million species in its freely available database.

    That's awesome. ...

    WHERE THE HELL IS IT?!
  • last post!

    (Why hasn't this caught on?)

  • "But there may be anywhere between 3 million and 12 million more yet to be discovered"

    How do one come up with a figure like that about something one doesn't know? :D

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