'Principles for creating a single authoritative list of the world’s species' (PLoS Biology)

An interesting read given the taxonomic disputes everyone is familiar with (I’m looking at you US snakes…)


There is a website called One Zoom https://www.onezoom.org/ which shows taxonomic relationships between every species on our planet. It is right now the best possible website for all of the world’s species. Which taxonomic dispute are you talking about? Is this a dispute about kingdoms, phyla, cladistics, polyphyletic/paraphyletic, or other?
Hope this helps,


I was just referencing the many taxonomic disputes for taxa like Australian frogs or North American herps. If you browse observations of the latter on iNat (especially colubrids), you’ll notice a lot of debates about e.g. the validity of certain species vs subspecies


It is right now the best possible website for all of the world’s species

Cool tool! What makes it the best?


@aisti It has detailed information, links to EOL pages, pictures, accurate information, and other neat features like being able to change the tree format.


Cool, I was just about to post this Guardian article about it – nice to see the original article.


Scientists put forward plan to create universal species list

Single classification system could end centuries of disagreement and improve global efforts to tackle biodiversity loss

A plan to create the first universally recognised list of species on Earth has prompted hopes of an end to centuries of disagreement and confusion over how to classify the world’s library of life.

The 10-point plan aims to finally bring order with an authoritative list of the world’s species and a governance mechanism responsible for its quality. Researchers hope a single recognised list would improve global efforts to tackle biodiversity loss, the trade in endangered wildlife, biosecurity and conservation.

With at least 26 competing concepts, biologists have never reached agreement over what constitutes a species, the most basic classification of an organism. As a result, conservation organisations, national governments and scientists often use separate lists of mammals, fungi and other organisms with differing taxonomic descriptions.


Looking at the co-authors – there’s at least one iNat-r that I recognize. @dhobern Congrats!


Onezoom seems to be a nice tool for discovering the abundance biodiversity and get a feeling for it, but it’s not very useful for scientific/practical purposes. I searched for some species and it seems like there are many missing. Also, a good checklist would need to list synonyms, and author and year for each species.


For those interested, I found an earlier article that seems to be a predecessor to the more recent one. The recent article that beachcomber links to above appears to have (maybe?) successfully combined authors of differing viewpoints in 2017/2018. Excerpting a section from the 2018 paper below, which I thought was interesting on taxonomy and conservation.

Taxonomy based on science is necessary for global conservation


Does taxonomy hamper conservation?

Garnett and Christidis “contend that the scientific community’s failure to govern taxonomy threatens the effectiveness of global efforts to halt biodiversity loss, damages the credibility of science, and is expensive to society.” We disagree.

The authors claim that species-splitting provides an incentive to trophy hunters to target small populations, affects biodiversity tallies in ways that negatively impact conservation, and results in inordinately higher funding to oversplit taxonomic groups; but they provide no evidence to support these claims. If hunters target endangered species, then such societal developments should be challenged, rather than used as justification for changing the way in which science is conducted. They cite data in Evans et al. [20] to imply that different taxonomic approaches between birds and mammals could lead to disproportionate funding relative to genetic diversity, when in fact those data (Figure 6 therein) show that the number of species in a group is not correlated with funding (e.g., fishes comprise 11% of species protected under the United States Endangered Species Act but receive 61% of government funding).

How does taxonomic instability affect conservation? Morrison et al. [21] “found that changes in taxonomy do not have consistent and predictable impacts on conservation”; they also found that “splitting taxa may tend to increase protection, and name changes may have the least effect where they concern charismatic organisms.” In African ungulates, Gippoliti et al. [22] describe cases where conservation management based on the Biological Species Concept overlooks evolutionarily significant units (recognized with the Phylogenetic Species Concept), with negative consequences. The splitting of legally protected taxa may result in species not being included by name in conservation legislation or regulations, thereby losing legal protection. However, well-crafted legislation includes mechanisms to extend protection despite taxonomic changes; initiatives such as Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) and the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) specialist groups already link taxonomy and its changes with conservation [23]. Garnett and Christidis assert that taxonomic instability negatively affects conservation. However, artificial stability arising from insufficient taxonomic work can be particularly detrimental to conservation, causing mistargeting of conservation funding by misrepresentation of population size and distribution with the flow-on effects to conservation status [11,24,25].

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