History of the World Spider Catalog

The World Spider Catalog has a long history starting with activities of Pierre Bonnet (University of Toulouse, France) and Carl Friedrich Roewer (Bremen, Germany). Bonnet's seven scholarly books of his Bibliographia araneorum, published in three volumes 1945-1961, were fully comprehensive and covered literature on all aspects of spider biology through 1939, on more than 6400 pages. Roewer's Katalog der Araneae von 1758 bis 1940 (three books, published in two volumes, more than 2700 pages) were published 1942-1955 and covered the taxonomically useful literature through 1940 or 1954 (depending on the taxon).

The next important step was performed by Paolo M. Brignoli (University of Aquila, Italy) with his Catalogue of the Araneae described between 1940 and 1981, published 1983. This 750 pages volume filled many of the post-Roewer gaps (through 1980, with scattered coverage of later papers as well). Brignoli intended to issue Catalogue supplements at periodic intervals but this stopped due to his untimely death in 1986. Fortunately, Brignoli’s idea could be continued because Norman I. Platnick (American Museum of Natural History, New York) accepted the challenge to take over the task of preparing supplements to Brignoli's volume. In the next decade, three supplement volumes (1989, 1993, 1997) of Advances in Spider Taxonomy with together 2500 pages were published, covering the literature from 1981 through 1995 and including all synonyms, transfers, and re-descriptions from 1940 to 1980.

By the end of the 20th century it became obvious that the increasing quantity of taxonomic information could no longer be managed in the conventional way. So far more than 10’000 catalog pages and (currently) an annual influx of more than 300 taxonomic publications with descriptions of ca. 900 new species need an internet based solution. Platnick started this task with a first online version of his World Spider Catalog in 2000 and continued through 2014, with two updated versions per year, a total of 30 updates. The catalog was hosted at the American Museum of Natural History and served as HTML files per family. You can find a complete archive.

With the retirement of Platnick in 2014, the Natural History Museum Bern (Switzerland) accepted to continue Platnick’s work and took over the World Spider Catalog. All data provided by the catalog version 14.5 has been processed in order to fit into a relational database. One of the major achievements of a true database is that it is fully searchable over the complete content of spider taxonomy since 1757 when the first now acknowledged 68 spider species were described by Carl Clerck. Another important novelty is the link to the Word Spider Catalog Association (WSCA) which intends to provide access to more than 12’000 taxonomic publications which are behind this database information.