The Encyclopedia of Life reaches historic milestone with the Smithsonian’s help

This mother Paradise Shelduck (Tadorna variegata; the Māori name is Pūtangitangi), took her wee ducklings out into the shallows of Opunake Beach in Taranaki, New Zealand. They caught tiny little waves and surfed back to the shore. (Photo by Dave Young via

The Encyclopedia of Life has surged past one million pages of content with the addition of hundreds of thousands of new images and specimen data from the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of Natural History.  Launched in 2007 with the support of leading scientific organizations around the world, the Encyclopedia of Life provides global access to knowledge about life on Earth by building a web page for each of the 1.9 million recognized species.

The new content from NMNH recently added to EOL includes type specimen information from the botany, entomology, vertebrate zoology and invertebrate zoology departments. In taxonomy, type specimens are the first found material from which new species are scientifically defined and given names. These specimens are vital resources for scientists who study the classification of organisms and to all studies of comparative biology.

A Barbary Macaque (Macaca sylvanus) by the Upper Rock Nature Reserve in Gibraltar. Although the species is commonly referred to as the "Barbary Ape", it is in fact a monkey. The Barbary Macaque population in Gibraltar is the last in the whole of the European continent. A popular belief holds that as long as Barbary Macaques exist on Gibraltar, the territory will remain under British rule. (Photo by RedCoat via

“The Encyclopedia of Life is a consortium of partners who generate and integrate biodiversity information worldwide. To achieve our ambitious goals, we have to continuously increase the number of species pages and the amount of trusted information in each of them,” said Dr. Erick Mata, EOL Executive Director. “Thanks to the hard work of our international collaborators, we hit the one million page mark with plenty of momentum for the next five years.”

The new images now available on EOL include specimen photos of bones and skins, mounted specimens, x-rays, and photos from collecting expeditions. Some highlights include image galleries for pressed plants,  mollusk shells and other marine invertebratesinsects,  fish and herpetology.

Reaching the milestone of one million pages of content underscores how far the EOL initiative has come since its inception five years ago. When EOL first launched, it offered only 30,000 species pages from fewer than a dozen content partners. Today, EOL has more than 200 collaborators around the world, a global member community, and active contributors who share their time, creativity and knowledge through EOL.

“This isn’t just a big milestone for us — it’s also an important one for all of our users, supporters and partners who have helped build the global EOL network,” said Dr. Cynthia Parr, Director of EOL’s Species Pages Group. “We are well on our way towards building a resource that will have maximum impact on the understanding and conservation of biological diversity.”

The Encyclopedia of Lifeoperates as an ongoing collaboration of individuals and organizations who share the vision to provide global access to knowledge about life on Earth. EOL is supported by founding sponsors the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation and the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation.  Additional support comes from EOL member institutions and donations from around the world.  

Posted: 30 May 2012
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2 Responses to The Encyclopedia of Life reaches historic milestone with the Smithsonian’s help
    • janet wright
    • I absolutely love the torch it has so much info you really learn alot about different things and what other employees in different job tittles do on a every day basis in thier line of work.I have learned some amazing interesting things.