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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 595,876 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

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Georges Cuvier
1769–1832. Standard IPNI form: Cuvier

Georges Léopold Chrétien Frédéric Dagobert Cuvier (most often published simply as "Georges Cuvier") was a French naturalist and zoologist. He is sometimes referred to as the founding father of paleontology. Cuvier was a major figure in natural sciences research in the early 19th century and was instrumental in establishing the fields of comparative anatomy and paleontology through his work in comparing living animals with fossils. Cuvier's work is considered the foundation of vertebrate paleontology, and he expanded Linnaean taxonomy by grouping classes into phyla and incorporating both fossils and living species into the classification. Cuvier is also known for establishing extinction as a fact: at the time, extinction was considered by many of Cuvier's contemporaries to be merely controversial speculation.

He is also remembered for strongly opposing theories of evolution, which at the time (before Darwin's theory) were mainly proposed by Jean-Baptiste Lamarck and Étienne Geoffroy Saint-Hilaire. Cuvier believed there was no evidence for evolution, but rather evidence for cyclical creations and destructions of life forms by global extinction events such as deluges (outburst flooding).

Cuvier wrote hundreds of scientific papers and books. His most famous work is Le Règne Animal (1816–1817, four tomes; English title The Animal Kingdom). It sets out to describe the natural structure of the whole of the animal kingdom based on comparative anatomy, and its natural history. Cuvier divided the animals into four embranchements ("Branches", roughly corresponding to phyla), namely vertebrates, molluscs, articulated animals (arthropods and annelids), and zoophytes (cnidaria and other phyla).

He is the author of thousands of new taxa, among them well over 5,000 species of fish and molluscs. In 1800 and working only from a drawing, Cuvier was the first to correctly identify in print, a fossil found in Bavaria as a small flying reptile, which he named the Ptero-Dactyle in 1809 (later Latinized as Pterodactylus antiquus).

When the French Academy was preparing its first dictionary, it defined "crab" as "A small red fish which walks backwards." This definition was sent with a number of others to the naturalist Cuvier for his approval. The scientist wrote back: "Your definition, gentlemen, would be perfect, only for three exceptions. The crab is not a fish, it is not red, and it does not walk backwards." In 1819, he was created a peer for life in honour of his scientific contributions and is thereafter known as Baron Cuvier.

See also: Distinguished authors of previous months.

Species of the month

Huon Tree Kangaroo

Dendrolagus matschiei

Dendrolagus matschiei

Some facts on this kangaroo:

Head and body length: 50 to 75 cm.

Weight: About 7.5 to 10 kg.

Habitat: Montane forests, including cloud forests in high-elevation areas.

Range: The Huon peninsula of Papua New Guinea.

Diet: Mainly leaves and ferns; also sap, insects, flowers, and nuts.

Surviving number: Estimated at 2,500 adults.

Conservation status: Endangered (IUCN 3.1).

First described: By Friedrich Förster and Walter Rothschild in 1907.

Dendrolagus matschiei, like all its cousins, is a great hopper, but this kangaroo has an additional gift: it is also an exceptional climber. Using stout, muscular forearms for a strong grip, long tails for balance and broad feet with non-slip soles, it moves with ease through the forest, foraging for leaves and ferns. Males may mate with multiple females, yet the females remain independent and care for their offspring by themselves. Like their kangaroo relatives, the young crawl into their mother's pouch for safety and nourishment. Unfortunately, all the hopping and climbing can't protect this species from two threats it faces: habitat loss and hunting. The genus Dendrolagus or "Tree-kangaroos" contains 12 species adapted for life in trees. They inhabit the rainforests of New Guinea, far northeastern Queensland, and nearby islands.

See also: Species of previous months

Endangered species of the month

Madagascan Big-headed Side-necked Turtle

Erymnochelys madagascariensis

Erymnochelys madagascariensis

Some facts about this species:

Length: Adult straight-line carapace length of this turtle is most often circa 35 cm, but can reach 50 cm or more.

Weight: The body mass of adult specimen average from circa 4.90 kg (females) to 5.10 kg (males).

Habitat: Inhabits large, freshwater areas such as permanent slow moving rivers, backwaters and lakes. Hatchlings and juveniles often move into smaller bodies of water, such as slow moving streams or even rice paddy-fields, where they grow quickly before returning to larger bodies of water to mature and breed.

Distribution: The species is endemic to the western lowland river basins of Madagascar (up to an altitude of about 500 metres above sea level), from the Mangoky River in the south to the Sambirano region in the North.

Diet: Hatchlings and juveniles are predominantly carnivorous. Adult specimens are mainly herbivorous eating leaves, flowers and fruit, but occasionally also feed on small vertebrates.

Reproduction: Female turtles first produce eggs when they reach 25 to 30 cm carapace length but do not attain full reproductive potential until they are at least 32 cm in length. These turtles nest between September and January, though predominantly in October–December. Up to three clutches are laid each year. The average clutch size is 13 eggs, but large females can produce up to 20 eggs per clutch, i.e. 60 eggs in one year. The offspring's sex ratio in various populations varies from 1:2 to 1.7:1. Madagascan hatching- and breeding programmes are in place since 1999, however slow in progress. In 2004 a first batch of 158 turtles hatched from incubated eggs collected in the wild were released into Lake Ankomakoma. In 2015 a batch of 114 turtles successfully bred in captivity were released into Lake Ravelobe. That is the first time ever that captive bred Erymnochelys madagascariensis have been released into the wild.

Major threats: The species is exploited for food by the increasing human population of Madagascar. The minimum catch size is less than the size at sexual maturity, which is likely to lead to serious over-exploitation. Also, the habitat is fragmented by agricultural and deforestation practices, and siltation is a problem because of the conversion of lakes to rice fields.

Surviving number: The best available information in 2001 generated an estimate of some 10,000 animals making up some 20 subpopulations. Individual popuations comprise tens to a few hundred animals, the sole biggest being Lake Ambondrobe with approximately 5,000 specimens (2015).

Conservation status: Listed as Endangered by the IUCN in 1996. Listed as Critically Endangered since 2008 (IUCN 3.1), with populations in decline. The Madagascan big-headed turtle is considered one of the most endangered reptiles in the world, and is also included in the Turtle Conservation Funds (TFC) top 25 endangered turtles list.

First described: Grandidier, A. 1867. Liste des reptiles nouveaux découverts, en 1866, sur la côte sud-ouest de Madagascar. Revue et magasin de zoologie pure et appliquée (2)19: 232–234.

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