Shen Yun Contest

Enter to win two tickets to see Shen Yun April 3-5, 2015, at McCaw Hall

Fill out my online form.

*No purchase necessary to enter to win. Winner will be selected by a random drawing and will be notified by phone or email.

The Herald of Everett, Washington
HeraldNet on Facebook HeraldNet on Twitter HeraldNet RSS feeds HeraldNet Pinterest HeraldNet Google Plus HeraldNet Youtube
HeraldNet Newsletters  Newsletters: Sign up  Green editions icon Green editions

Calendar


HeraldNet Headlines
HeraldNet Newsletter Delivered to your inbox each week.


Published: Tuesday, August 23, 2011, 5:26 p.m.

Millions of species fill Earth

And a new study says we've only discovered a quarter of them

  • A blind hairy mini-lobster, distantly related to the squat lobster family, was found in 2005 in hydrothermal vents where the East Pacific Rise meets A...

    National Museum of National History in Paris

    A blind hairy mini-lobster, distantly related to the squat lobster family, was found in 2005 in hydrothermal vents where the East Pacific Rise meets Antarctica.

WASHINGTON -- Our world is a much wilder place than it looks.
A new study estimates that Earth has almost 8.8 million species, but we've only discovered about a quarter of them. And some of yet-to-be-seen ones could be in our own back yards, scientists say.
So far, only 1.9 million species have been found. Recent discoveries have been small and weird: a psychedelic frogfish, a lizard the size of a dime and even a blind hairy mini-lobster at the bottom of the ocean.
"We are really fairly ignorant of the complexity and colorfulness of this amazing planet," said the study's co-author, Boris Worm, a biology professor at Canada's Dalhousie University.
While some scientists and others may question why we need to know the number of species, others say it's important.
There are potential benefits from these undiscovered species, which need to be found before they disappear from the planet, said famed Harvard biologist Edward Wilson, who was not part of this study. Some of modern medicine comes from unusual plants and animals.
"We won't know the benefits to humanity (from these species), which potentially are enormous," the Pulitzer Prize-winning Wilson said. "If we're going to advance medical science, we need to know what's in the environment."
Biologists have long known that there's more to Earth than it seems, estimating the number of species to be somewhere between 3 million and 100 million. Figuring out how much is difficult.
Worm and Camilo Mora of the University of Hawaii used complex mathematical models and the pace of discoveries of not only species, but of higher classifications such as family to come up with their estimate.
Their study, published Tuesday in the online journal PLoS Biology, a publication of the Public Library of Science, estimated the number of species at nearly 8.8 million.
Of those species, 6.5 million would be on land and 2.2 million in the ocean, which is a priority for the scientists doing the work since they are part of the Census of Marine Life, an international group of scientists trying to record all the life in the ocean.
The research estimates that animals rule with 7.8 million species, followed by fungi with 611,000 and plants with just shy of 300,000 species.
While some new species like the strange mini-lobster are in exotic places such as undersea vents, "many of these species that remain to be discovered can be found literally in our own back yards," Mora said.
The study said it could be off by about 1.3 million species, with the number somewhere between 7.5 million and 10.1 million. But evolutionary biologist Blair Hedges of Penn State University said he thinks the study is not good enough to be even that exact and could be wrong by millions.
Hedges knows firsthand about small species.
He found the world's smallest lizard, a half-inch long Caribbean gecko, and the world's shortest snake, the 4-inch Caribbean threadsnake.
Online
Census of Marine Life: www.coml.org
Encyclopedia of Life: www.eol.org

Share your comments: Log in using your HeraldNet account or your Facebook, Twitter or Disqus profile. Comments that violate the rules are subject to removal. Please see our terms of use. Please note that you must verify your email address for your comments to appear.

You are logged in using your HeraldNet ID. Click here to update your profile. | Log out.

Our new comment system is not supported in IE 7. Please upgrade your browser here.

comments powered by Disqus
digital subscription promo

Subscribe now

Unlimited digital access starting at 99 cents, or included with any print subscription.

loading...
HeraldNet Classifieds