Ever wonder where you can find Anolis gorgonae? Or what about Anolis proboscis? How about some 25,000 other species? Well, then you might want to go have a look at the Map of Life (www.mappinglife.org). Even just casually perusing this web database for some odd species searches can be really eye-opening.
The Map of Life is an impressive and ambitious project that aims to map the distributions of all life on Earth. The database assembles and integrates different sources of data for species occurrences and distributions worldwide, including expert species range maps, locality information, ecological data, and maps from organizations like IUCN, WWF, and GBIF. Best of all, accessing this information is completely free to the public. The species distribution data are projected onto Google Earth maps, and users can select different map displays and toggle features on and off.
This is already a great resource, but the project team has plans to add even more features and more data in the future. With the increasing use of spatial and geographical data in ecological, evolutionary, and conservation research, projects like this are going to be extremely valuable for the scientific community.
Reference for the Map of Life vision paper:
Jetz W, McPherson JM, and Guralnick RP (2012) Integrating biodiversity distribution knowledge: toward a global map of life. Trends in Ecology & Evolution, 27:151-159.