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Encyclopedia Of Life


The Book of Life: That book in heaven with the list of names? Well, biologists on earth have started their own version.

It's a website called the Encyclopedia of Life, and it hopes to eventually catalog every living species, from bacteria to blue whales.

Scientists say it's badly needed. That's because, believe it or not, we've only labeled one tenth of earth's millions of creatures. And often, at best, we have only a sketchy understanding of their connection to each other.

The encyclopedia should change that. Biologists around the world are sending in millions of pages of data. The site's administrators are cross-referencing the data to maps, historical surveys and other tools. The public can contribute, too, because the administrators need images. Lots of them.

So far the project covers 40,000 species and counting.

Web guests can choose how much information they want, and even create customized downloads, such as, say, a field guide to the birds of Nepal.

But it's more than a list. A separate research project that studies extinction risks, expects to draw heavily from the database, making it a powerful tool to help conservationists save species.

Sounds like one heavenly encyclopedia.

Script by Gail Davis