Beetles, birds, general natural history. Britain, Ireland and abroad.

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Pan-species Listing

This page is about pan-species listing for Britain, Ireland and the Channel Isles. The pan-species listers are a growing community of all-round naturalists united by an interest in all the wildlife of these islands, from Daisies to Death’s-head Hawk-moths and from Killer Whales to Killer Shrimps. As a schoolboy birder and twitcher, I wanted to get into other taxonomic groups and resolved an ambition to see 4,000 species of animals, plants and fungi in Britain and Ireland. A few years ago, I achieved that ambition and started to wonder just how high could British and Irish pan-species listing go? These pages have the answer …

I know there are naturalists who frown on listing. But if you are offended by the apparent trivialisation of natural history to the mere accumulation of big tallies of species, please read on. There is some biographical information about each of the listers and you will see that they are good naturalists and diligent biological recorders, often making significant contributions to the fields of conservation, research, taxonomy, biological recording, or inspiring and educating others about wildlife. But the main thing pan-species listers have in common is an unashamed enjoyment in keeping count of the species they see as they pursue their lives!

My purpose in putting together these rankings was not so much to encourage competition between listers but to encourage camaraderie amongst like-minded naturalists. And it has been great to make contact with so many people who share an enthusiasm for the full breadth of biodiversity. If you would like to join the pan-species rankings, I’d love to hear from you. I know it can be a big job to work out your pan-species list if you haven’t already been carefully keeping count but I’m happy to take estimated totals. For more information about joining, see here. You can also now join other pan-species listers on facebook.

A person’s pan-species list is a list of all the valid species of animals, plants, fungi and protists (i.e. everything except Bacteria) they have seen in Britain, Ireland or the Channel Isles. It excludes anything seen only in permanent captivity or culture (e.g. zoo or farm animals, crops, garden plants) but includes any alien which has established itself here even if it depends upon the inadvertent help of humans to persist (e.g. the many invertebrates which survive only in indoor environments). See The Rules (added 28th May 2011) for more info. Read more on the Birdguides website here. And see the Telegraph article about Jonty and Dave’s race to reach 10,000 here.

Has Jonty seen more of the wildlife of these islands than any other naturalist ever? I suspect that the modern-day record holder will also be the all-time record holder. I don’t think any naturalist of the past would have been able to do all the travelling required to see so much of the wildlife of Britain and Ireland. And modern day naturalists also have the benefit of modern websites, literature, technology and equipment which would have been the envy of previous generations. For a comparison from the 18th century, here’s Linnaeus’ pan-species list. I wonder if there are any mycologists who have seen more than two-thirds of the UK’s 14,562 species of fungi?

9 Responses “Pan-species Listing”

  1. Grahame Madge says:

    Hi Mark, as a birder who has seen most of the easily accessible species now in Britain, I’m looking for a new challenge. And I’m quite hooked on this concept. However, the problems of identification for a novice are enormous and can be quite discouraging. Any tips or advice on how to help break this barrier would be gratefully received.
    Cheers Grahame

  2. markgtelfer says:

    Hi Grahame,
    As an accomplished birder, you have already mastered a very challenging taxonomic group and you should have nothing to fear from the rest of Britain’s biodiversity. Ok, well maybe steer clear of fungus gnats and aleocharine rove-beetles for a bit! The good news is that identifying British wildlife has never been easier. Across many groups there are excellent ID resources in print and online. And a major change since I started on beetles is that you no longer need a local mentor to help each time you get stuck: there’s now a supportive online community of coleopterists willing to share their expertise. The same goes for many other taxonomic groups. Enjoy the challenge! Mark

  3. Colin Plant says:

    Just come across this Telferian sillyness – didn’t know about it – been too busy doing real entomology!!! However, for the hell of it I just asked MapMate how many invertebrates I have seen and it is close on 4000. However, I have only entered about a quarter of all my data. If I add on the birds (I used to put rings on them) and the fungi (I once wrote a paper on them) and the plants (I still pretend to recognise some of them) I reckon I must be up in the top 5 at least. Might even muster a few lacewings! When I get a spare lifetime I must get round to doing a formal count – just for the fun of dislodging a fellow nerd from his lofty position. 6134 seems to be a target worth aiming at? Pity I can’t count all my Eastern European stuff though!

  4. markgtelfer says:

    Welcome Colin! I think Jonty and Dave will take some beating but I’m sure you would be able to bump me off third position. Trouble is it’s such a mammoth task to count up a pan-species list of several thousand. Maybe you could do an estimate? Mark

  5. Neil Fletcher says:

    Hi Mark, the Google doc does not display in Firefox 13.0.1 (Latest version).

  6. Rachel Bicker says:

    Hello Mark, I’m new to ecology and thinking of computerising my own species records in various notebook and excel files. Any tips for how to lay it out in an efficient way and what would be the minimum info to include? Many thanks, Rachel

  7. markgtelfer says:

    Rachel, My advice would be to use MapMate:
    http://www.mapmate.co.uk/
    Keeping biological records in a spreadsheet is not uncommon but it does result in messy data and creates a lot of cleaning work for records centres and recording scheme organisers!

  8. Pete Boardman says:

    I wish I hadnt seen this! Whilst no one has commented for a while I’m going to have to have a go at this so I can add my name to the Top 40. I’ve started with my invert records on MapMate so will work on everything else in bits of spare time over the coming weeks. Cheers Pete

  9. markgtelfer says:

    Excellent Pete, look forward to adding you to the rankings! Mark

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