The Encyclopaedia Britannica may have ceased printing earlier this year, ending a 244-year run. But the Encyclopedia of Life is just getting started. An ambitious initiative to catalogue all the known species on planet Earth, the Encyclopedia of Life was inaugurated by famed biologist E.O. Wilson when he won the TED Prize in 2007 and issued this wish for the world, “I wish that we will work together to help create the key tool that we need to inspire preservation of Earth’s biodiversity.” Check out his moving TEDTalk on the wish.
At TED2012, Cynthia Parr gave an update on the Encyclopedia, revealing that the number of species catalogued had almost reached a million. But additions have grown swiftly since then. As of this afternoon 1,110,940 species have been documented through the project.
Below, some of the most interesting recent entries.
Behold a newly discovered species of chameleon, the Brookesia modern, that is so small it can fit on the head of a match. You’ll find this little guy on an island off Madagascar, Nosy Hara.
Meet Frullania knightbridgei, a newly discovered type of liverwort. Discovered on Rakiura/Stewart Island in New Zealand — which is known for its high levels of rainfall — this plants soaks up water around it like a sponge.
A new species of spider has been discovered in Auburn, Alabama. When it came time to name it, the research team showed their football loyalty, calling it the Auburn Tiger Trapdoor spider.
Spigelia sp. Popovkin 602 is a plant with pink and white flowers that does something very unusual with its seeds — its branches bend down and bury them. Also fascinating — the plant was discovered in Brazil by a local handyman.
Potamites montanicola, a newly discovered species of lizard, isn’t just notable for its beautiful coloring. The lizard is the only of its genus known to live in mountainous environments, leading scientists to question how the heck it maintains its body temperature through the cold nights.
- Brookesia modern: Glaw F, Köhler J, Townsend TM, Vences M
- Frullania knightbridgei: Matt von Konrat, Peter de Lange, Matt Greif, Lynika Strozier, Jörn Hentschel, Jochen Heinrichs
- Auburn Tiger Trapdoor spider: Jason E. Bond, Chris A. Hamilton, Nicole L. Garrison, Charles H. Ray
- Spigelia sp. Popovkin 602: Alex Popovkin
- Potamites montanicola: Germán Chávez, Diego Vásquez
E.O. Wilson was awarded the TED Prize in 2007. Who should win the $1 million prize in 2013? Head to TEDPrize.org to make a nomination. The nomination process closes on August 31.