Animal Diversity Web

Last updated

Animal Diversity Web (ADW) is an online database that collects the natural history, classification, species characteristics, conservation biology, and distribution information on thousands of species of animals. The website includes thousands of photographs, hundreds of sound clips, and a virtual museum.



The ADW acts as an online encyclopedia, with each individual species account displaying basic information specific to that species. The website used a local, relational database written by staff and contributors. Each species account includes geographic range, habitat, physical description, development, ecosystem roles, reproduction, life span, communication and perception, behavior, food habits, predation, and conservation status. The organization of the site reinforces past biology knowledge by providing sharp images and showing common phyla on the home page. [1]

The Animal Diversity Web has resources other than its database. The website also offers a virtual museum and a cell phone app for quick reference. The virtual museum contains mostly mammals and has a large collection of skulls that can be virtually handled. [2] The Animal Diversity Web is a non-profit site and is written largely for college students. [3]

Although the ADW primarily targets audiences of higher education, it also provides resources for K-12 instructors. [4]


The ADW was created by Philip Myers, a former biology professor at the University of Michigan, in 1995. [5] The site now contains over 2,150 accounts of animal species along with over 11,500 images and 725 sounds.[ needs update? ] These numbers will continue to grow as the developers of the website plan to add 250 species by the end of 2017. [3]

Along with species accounts, the ADW has over 250 accounts of higher taxonomic groups. [3]

Most of the contributors to the website are undergraduate students. ADW has collaborated with 30 colleges and universities across the United States. The undergraduate students often submit reports on species as part of their course requirements. [6] Each account is researched using peer reviewed scientific journals and research papers and is edited by both the professors and the staff at the ADW. This provides opportunities for students to experience real-world examples of writing skills and biology intertwining and also adds efficient contributions to the site. Experts at the University of Michigan and elsewhere also provide content at higher taxonomic levels. [6] As of November 2017, The Animal Diversity Web had 3,675 contributors. [3]

Animal Diversity Web resources

The ADW markets itself as a resource for constructing scholarly documents. All species accounts have been reviewed and approved several times over, providing the most accurate data. ADW is highly ranked by Google and Google Scholar search engines and is often the first result when searching for animal names or animal databases. [3] Scholarly journals often draw from the ADW database when they are looking at a broad range of species in their study. When Keinath et al. collected data to determine animals' sensitivity to fragmentation, the ADW and other databases allowed them to compile evidence suggesting there are important differences among taxa in how they respond to habitat loss, depending upon habitat specialization and life history. [7]

Some scholarly writers will reference the Animal Diversity Web source regardless of the size of the study. One journal about adaptive evolution in pheasants references the habitat elevation of three different types of pheasant species directly from the ADW webpage. [8]

The ADW is also a potential resource in the field. Biologists can use the sounds, image gallery, or descriptions to properly distinguish between closely related species. [9]

Experts believe ADW can be implemented as a teaching and learning tool in order to improve research and writing skills in college biology courses. ADW encourages inquiry-driven learning methods by showing methods of science in action.

Student authorship of a species focuses on student research and writing in an engaging way. Students run into problems such as limited information or difficult language the helps them sharpen their skills. Publishing a species account gives students opportunities to highlight a real-world project that provides them insight about their desired field.


ADW has partnered with EOL (Encyclopedia of Life) in order to allow a wider audience to view the information. [10] BioKIDS Critter Catalog is a partnered website also created by the University of Michigan that provides a simplified version of the animal accounts suitable for children K-12. [11] AmphibiaWeb is a partner that provides information on amphibian conservation, natural history, declines, and taxonomy. [12]


The current staff of the Animal Diversity Web is employed at the University of Michigan.

Related Research Articles

Taxonomy (biology) The science of identifying, describing, defining and naming groups of biological organisms

In biology, taxonomy is the science of naming, defining (circumscribing) and classifying groups of biological organisms on the basis of shared characteristics. Organisms are grouped together into taxa and these groups are given a taxonomic rank; groups of a given rank can be aggregated to form a super-group of higher rank, thus creating a taxonomic hierarchy. The principal ranks in modern use are domain, kingdom, phylum, class, order, family, genus, and species. The Swedish botanist Carl Linnaeus is regarded as the founder of the current system of taxonomy, as he developed a system known as Linnaean taxonomy for categorizing organisms and binomial nomenclature for naming organisms.

Integrated Taxonomic Information System Authoritative taxonomic information on plants, animals, fungi, and microbes

The Integrated Taxonomic Information System (ITIS) is an American partnership of federal agencies designed to provide consistent and reliable information on the taxonomy of biological species. ITIS was originally formed in 1996 as an interagency group within the US federal government, involving several US federal agencies, and has now become an international body, with Canadian and Mexican government agencies participating. The database draws from a large community of taxonomic experts. Primary content staff are housed at the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History and IT services are provided by a US Geological Survey facility in Denver. The primary focus of ITIS is North American species, but many biological groups exist worldwide and ITIS collaborates with other agencies to increase its global coverage.

Northern leopard frog species of amphibian

The northern leopard frog is a species of leopard frog from the true frog family, native to parts of Canada and the United States. It is the state amphibian of Minnesota and Vermont.

Evolutionary ecology Study of how interactions among species and between species and their environment affect species through selection and adaptation

Evolutionary ecology lies at the intersection of ecology and evolutionary biology. It approaches the study of ecology in a way that explicitly considers the evolutionary histories of species and the interactions between them. Conversely, it can be seen as an approach to the study of evolution that incorporates an understanding of the interactions between the species under consideration. The main subfields of evolutionary ecology are life history evolution, sociobiology, the evolution of inter specific relations and the evolution of biodiversity and of communities.

Leptodactylidae family of amphibians

The southern frogs form the Leptodactylidae, a name that comes from Greek meaning a bird or other animal having slender toes. They are a diverse family of frogs that most likely diverged from other hyloids during the Cretaceous. The family has undergone major taxonomic revisions in recent years, including the reclassification of the former subfamily Eleutherodactylinae into its own family the Eleutherodactylidae; the Leptodactylidae now number 206 species in 15 genera distributed throughout Mexico, the Caribbean, and Central and South America. The family includes terrestrial, burrowing, aquatic, and arboreal members, inhabiting a wide range of habitats.

<i>Hyla</i> genus of amphibians

Hyla is a genus of frogs in the tree frog family Hylidae. They have a very broad distribution; species can be found in Europe, Asia, Africa, and across the Americas. There were more than 300 described species in this genus, but after a major revision of the family Hylidae most of these have been moved to new genera so the genus now only contains 33 species". The earliest known fossil member of this genus is †Hyla swanstoni from the Eocene of Saskatchewan, Canada.

Brook salamander genus of amphibians

Brook salamanders are a genus, Eurycea, of salamanders native to North America.

Riverine rabbit species of mammal

The riverine rabbit, also known as the bushman rabbit or bushman hare, is one of the most endangered mammals in the world, with only around 500 living adults, and 1500 overall. This rabbit has an extremely limited distribution area, found only in the central and southern regions of the Karoo Desert of South Africa's Northern Cape Province. It is the only member of the genus Bunolagus because of unique traits that separate it from the other lagomorphs in the genus Lepus. There is still controversy and debate between taxonomists over its classification. Many tests and karyotypic analysis has been performed on hares from the genus Lepus to compare the riverine rabbit to others that are classified as true hares.

Philip Myers's akodont is a recently described species of grass mouse from Misiones Province, Argentina. Like other grass mice, A. philipmyersi is a small, non-descript, greyish-brown mouse with prominent ears. The species was recognized as distinct from other grass mice on the basis of unique features of karyology, genetic sequence, cranial measurements, and general morphology.

Hoary fox species of mammal

The hoary fox or hoary zorro, also known as raposinha-do-campo in Brazil, is a species of zorro or "false" fox endemic to Brazil. Unlike many other foxes, it feeds primarily on small invertebrates such as insects.

<i>Nyctibatrachus</i> genus of amphibians

Nyctibatrachus is a genus of frogs endemic to the Western Ghats of southwestern India. Their common name is night frogs. Their scientific name also means "night frog", in reference to their habits and dark color. They are the only extant members of the monotypic subfamily Nyctibatrachinae.

<i>Jaculus</i> (rodent) genus of mammals

The genus Jaculus is a member of the Dipodinae subfamily of dipodoid rodents (jerboas). Jaculus species are distributed in desert and semi-arid regions across northern Africa, the Sahara, the Horn of Africa, Arabia, the Middle East, and Central Asia.

<i>Ranitomeya vanzolinii</i> species of Amphibia

Ranitomeya vanzolinii, also known as the Brazilian poison frog or spotted poison frog, is a species of frog from the family Dendrobatidae. It is found in the Amazonian rainforests of Brazil and Peru, and possibly Bolivia.

Pygmy ringtail possum species of mammal

The pygmy ringtail possum is a species of marsupial in the family Pseudocheiridae. It is found in West Papua, Indonesia and Papua New Guinea in montane forest regions. They are "widespread along the Central Cordillera" and live at elevations between 1,500 and 3,600 metres above sea level.”

Global biodiversity

Global biodiversity is the measure of biodiversity on planet Earth and is defined as the total variability of life forms. More than 99 percent of all species that ever lived on Earth are estimated to be extinct. Estimates on the number of Earth's current species range from 2 million to 1012, of which about 1.74 million have been databased thus far and over 80 percent have not yet been described. More recently, in May 2016, scientists reported that 1 trillion species are estimated to be on Earth currently with only one-thousandth of one percent described. The total amount of DNA base pairs on Earth, as a possible approximation of global biodiversity, is estimated at 5.0 x 1037, and weighs 50 billion tonnes. In comparison, the total mass of the biosphere has been estimated to be as much as 4 TtC (trillion tons of carbon).

Euthyneura clade of molluscs

Euthyneura is a taxonomic clade of snails and slugs, which includes species from freshwater, marine, aquatic and terrestrial gastropod mollusks in the clade Heterobranchia.

Measurement of biodiversity

Conservation biologists have designed a variety of objective means to measure biodiversity empirically. Each measure of biodiversity relates to a particular use of the data. For practical conservationists, measurements should include a quantification of values that are commonly shared among locally affected organisms, including humans. For others, a more economically defensible definition should allow the ensuring of continued possibilities for both adaptation and future use by humans, assuring environmental sustainability.

Leiuperinae subfamily of amphibians

The Leiuperinae are a subfamily of frogs in the family Leptodactylidae. Over 90 species are in five genera. The distribution of this subfamily is from southern Mexico to the Central America and much of South America.

BacDive scientific database for bacteria

BacDive is a bacterial metadatabase that provides strain-linked information about bacterial and archaeal biodiversity.


  1. Spelman, Lucy H. Animal Encyclopedia: 2,500 Animals with Photos, Maps, and More! National Geographic, 2012.
  2. Tarng, Wermhuar, et al. “The Development of a Virtual Marine Museum for Educational Applications.” Journal of Educational Technology Systems, vol. 37, no. 1, 2008, pp. 39–59., doi:10.2190/et.37.1.d.
  3. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 The Animal Diversity Web Myers, P., R. Espinosa, C. S. Parr, T. Jones, G. S. Hammond, and T. A. Dewey. 2017.
  4. Animal Diversity Web,
  5. Erickson, Jim (4 January 2013). "Revamped Animal Diversity Web reaching millions worldwide 18 years after launch". The University Record. Retrieved 25 August 2013.
  6. 1 2 Parr, C.S. et al., (2006). Building a biodiversity content management system for science, education, and outreach. Data Science Journal. 4, pp.1–11. DOI:
  7. Keinath, Douglas A., et al. “A Global Analysis of Traits Predicting Species Sensitivity to Habitat Fragmentation.” Global Ecology and Biogeography, vol. 26, no. 1, 2016, pp. 115–127., doi:10.1111/geb.12509.
  8. Gu, Peng, et al. “Evidence of Adaptive Evolution of Alpine Pheasants to High-Altitude Environment from Mitogenomic Perspective.” Mitochondrial DNA, vol. 27, no. 1, Apr. 2015, pp. 455–462., doi:10.3109/19401736.2014.900667.
  9. Salman, Manar Dawood, et al. “Sorting of Glossiphonia Complanata (Linnaeus, 1758) ( Rhynchobdellida : Glossiphoniidae ) from Three Aquatic Plants in Tigris River within Baghdad City.” Egyptian Journal of Petroleum, vol. 26, no. 3, 2017, pp. 851–853., doi:10.1016/j.ejpe.2016.11.001.
  10. “Animal Diversity Web.” Encyclopedia of Life,
  11. “Critter Catalog.” BioKIDS - Kids' Inquiry of Diverse Species, Critter Catalog,
  12. “AmphibiaWeb.” AmphibiaWeb,