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Wikispecies

The free species directory that anyone can edit.

It covers Animalia, Plantae, Fungi, Bacteria, Archaea, Protista and all other forms of life.

So far we have 559,940 articles

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A collaboration between Wikispecies and ZooKeys has been announced. PhytoKeys also joined the collaboration in November 2010. Images of species from ZooKeys and PhytoKeys will be uploaded to Wikimedia Commons and used in Wikispecies.



Distinguished author

Doctor Francesco Redi.jpg

Francesco Redi
1626–1697. Standard IPNI form: Redi

Francesco Redi was an Italian entomologist, parasitologist and toxicologist, sometimes referred to as the "founder of experimental biology" and the "father of modern parasitology". Having a doctoral degree and in both medicine and philosophy from the University of Pisa at the age of 21, he worked in various cities of Italy.

Redi is best known for his series of experiments, published in 1668 as Esperienze Intorno alla Generazione degli Insetti ("Experiments on the Generation of Insects"), which is regarded as his masterpiece and a milestone in the history of modern science. The book is one of the first steps in refuting "spontaneous generation", a theory also known as "Aristotelian abiogenesis". At the time, prevailing theory was that maggots arose spontaneously from rotting meat, which Redi was able to disprove. In an experiment, He used samples of rotting meat that were either fully exposed to the air, partially exposed to the air, or not exposed to air at all. Redi showed that both fully and partially exposed rotting meat developed fly maggots, whereas rotting meat that was not exposed to air did not develop maggots. This discovery completely changed the way people viewed the decomposition of organisms and prompted further investigations into insect life cycles and into entomology in general. It is also an early example of forensic entomology.

In Esperienze Intorno alla Generazione degli Insetti Redi was the first to describe ectoparasites, such as lice (Phthiraptera), fleas (Siphonaptera), and some mites (Acari). His next treatise in 1684, titled Osservazioni intorno agli animali viventi che si trovano negli animali viventi ("Observations on Living Animals, that are in Living Animals") recorded the descriptions and the illustrations of more than 100 parasites. In it he also differentiates the earthworm (generally regarded as a helminth) and Ascaris lumbricoides, the human roundworm. An important innovation from the book is his experiments in chemotherapy in which he employed what is now called "scientific control", the basis of experimental design in modern biological research. Perhaps, his most significant observation was that parasites produce eggs and develop from them, which contradicted the prevailing opinion that they are produced spontaneously. Altogether he is known to have described some 180 species of parasites.

See also: Distinguished authors of previous months.

Species of the month

Asiatic Cheetah

Acinonyx jubatus venaticus

Acinonyx jubatus venaticus

Some facts on this feline:

Head-body length: 112–135 cm.

Tail length: 66–84 cm.

Weight: Male: 43 kg.; female: 38 kg.

Surviving number: 70 to 100.

Conservation status: Critically endangered (IUCN 3.1).

Range: The Kavir desert region of Iran.

Habitat: Semi-desert areas.

First described: By the British naturalist Edward Griffith in 1821.


Put an Acinonyx jubatus venaticus and a Lamborghini sports car side by side on a freeway. On which one will you place your bets to cross the speed limit first? It will be a very close call: The cheetah can reach a speed of 87 kilometers per hour in just 3 seconds. It is the fastest land mammal on the planet, but can maintain this formidable speed for only 200 to 300 meters. Unlike those of other cats, a cheetah’s claws are not fully retractable to enable it to grip on the ground when in a hunting sprint. Cheetahs stalk their prey to within 30 m before chasing. If they are not successful within 1 minute they give up because their bodies overheat quickly. They kill the prey by tripping it up and biting the underside of its neck, suffocating the animal. The name "cheetah" is derived from the Hindi word "chita" which means "spotted" or "sprinkled", after the striking coat. The Asian subspecies is distinguished by a thick tuft of fur on the shoulders. This is needed for bitter winters on the high steppes of central Iran where they live.

See also: Species of previous months

Endangered species of the month

Slender Samoana Tree Snail

Samoana attenuata

Samoana attenuata

Some facts about this species:

Habitat: Terrestrial. The snail has a preference for higher branches in trees and often drier ridges. However, it is also found in at least one wet valley of Tahiti.

Distribution: Endemic to French Polynesia, where the population is severely fragmented. Extant on Tahiti, Moorea and Raiatea, Society Islands. The species was one of few species of Partulids which was native in Bora Bora, where it is now extinct.

Threats: The carnivorous snail Euglandina rosea (introduced in the late 1980s) remains the principal threat.

Surviving number: Approximately 100 mature individuals, and decreasing.

Conservation status: Critically Endangered (IUCN 3.1).

First described: As Partula attenuata by William Harper Pease in Tryon, G.W. & Pilsbry, H.A. (1909) Manual of Conchology, Volume 20. Caecilioides, Clessula and Partulidae. Index to vols. XVI–XX. (2)20: 165, 263.

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