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There are nearly two million described species of animal and plant life in the world, with estimates of the total number of species ranging from a few to many multiples of those described. On top of the mammoth zoological task of cataloging all that life, those sheer numbers offer a more profound problem: There is a wealth of life sitting right under our very noses, and every day species go extinct that most of us never even knew about.

Enter the Map of Life, a newly-released online tool for tracking and cataloging the world’s biodiversity. Led by Walter Jetz and Robert Guralnick, a pair of biodiversity scientists, the Map of Life project aims to solve a real issue in zoology: techniques for measuring biodiversity in geographic terms — tracking the fluctuating territories of species as populations and habitats decline — is terribly outdated.

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