About Us

Animal Diversity Web (ADW) is an online database of animal natural history, distribution, classification, and conservation biology at the University of Michigan

Animal Diversity Web has

  • Thousands of species accounts about individual animal species. These may include text, pictures of living animals, photographs and movies of specimens, and/or recordings of sounds. Students write the text of these accounts and we cannot guarantee their accuracy.
  • Descriptions of taxa above the species level, especially phyla, classes, orders and families. Hundreds of hyperlinked pages and images illustrate the traits and general biology of these groups. Professional biologists prepare these pieces, for the most part.
Animal Diversity Web Is
An Online Encyclopedia.

ADW is a large searchable encyclopedia of the natural history of animals. Every day, thousands of classroom students and informal visitors use it to answer animal questions. Other sites specialize in local, endangered, or particular kinds of animals. We aim to be as comprehensive as possible.
A Science Learning Tool.
ADW facilitates inquiry-driven learning, that is, teaching about science by leading students to use the methods of science. Our large database is structured, providing consistent information for all species to foster comparisons. Our query tool allows a user to find information on a set of species that you specify. Students can explore patterns and relationships, learn how to frame and answer scientific questions and, with the help of a good teacher, experience the excitement and satisfaction of doing science. Our long-term goal is to create a database rich enough that students can discover for themselves basic concepts in organismal and conservation biology.
A Virtual Museum
ADW provides a way to make the contents of research museums available globally for teaching and research. So far, our efforts have been directed mainly at mammals. Photographs of scientific specimens are available for representative species from most mammal families. We've also included several hundred Quick Time Virtual Reality Movies of skulls. These allow the user to "rotate" the specimen, providing an excellent impression of its 3-dimensional structure. We've written in depth about and illustrated many of the characteristics of interest to students of mammals. An important goal for the future is to expand to cover other groups of animals and include other media such as animal behavior video.

Contribute to Animal Diversity Web!

An essential feature of the ADW is student authorship of species accounts. Students learn considerable detail about the biology of a species, then share their work with users worldwide by making it part of our permanent database. Our web-based template ensures a consistent format for accounts. Help pages suggest content and sources. The system checks that no one else is writing about the student's chosen species, checks spelling of scientific names, and fills in the scientific classification. Instructors and ADW staff review and edit accounts before they are added to the site. Classes at dozens of universities and colleges contribute to the ADW project. The resulting growth of the database makes us even better for inquiry learning.

If you might be interested in having your students write accounts, please go to Teaching Resources and fill out the request to contribute. We also welcome comments, corrections, and questions.