first_imgScientists have spent centuries trying to catalog all the different species on Earth, but according to a recent study, less than 15 percent of the 8.7 million species have been discovered. Yes, apparently 86 percent of the planet’s species are still unknown to us.More frightening than the thought of crazy alien-looking creatures going undiscovered at the bottom of our oceans is the thought that many of these mystery-creatures will fade out of existence before we can even document them at the rate species are becoming extinct right now.According to the study’s co-author, Boris Worm of Canada’s Dalhousie University, the study was based on one question: “Are we within reach of finding all species, or are we way off?” The answer they found was, unfortunately, that we’re “way off.”It’s been 250 years since the infamous Swedish botanist Carl Linnaeus implemented our current taxonomy system, and only 1.25 million species have been classified in that time. The catalog for some classes of living things is almost complete, but the inventories for others are pretty light. For example, we’ve only described and cataloged 7 percent of the predicted number of fungi, and we’ve only identified less than 10 percent of the ocean’s creatures.The study was led by Camilo Mora who said the analysis predicted about 7.7 million different animals on Earth. However, we’ve only described and catalogued 953,434 animals so far. As for plants, there are an estimated 298,000 species in existence, though we only know of 215,644 right now. And let’s not forget out of 611,000 species of fungi only 43,271 have been described and cataloged.So, if we know that 86 percent of the species are unknown, how do we know that there are 8.7 million species out there? Scientists at Dalhousie University in Canada and the University of Hawaii came to that number by analyzing mathematical patterns from known species in different groups within the taxonomic system. However, the 8.7 million number is give or take 1.3 million, so there’s a chance that there are 10 million unknown species out there. That being said, this estimate is the closest calculation we’ve seen so far. Past guesses ranged from 3 million to 100 million species.So far, the species we have discovered have been things that are easy to find and that are relatively large. According to Worm, discovering a species is a lot easier than categorizing it. Once something is found, scientists have to compare the specimen to museum samples, analyze its DNA, and complete never-ending paperwork.At the current rate that living organisms are becoming extinct, which is ten to 100 times their natural level, we’re lucky if we can categorize a species before it disappears. Worm said the information we get when we discover new species is “nature’s library,” and that we’re “throwing out books without having a look at them.”But, don’t get too discouraged just yet. Worm said there’s an “age of discovery ahead of us” where we’ll discover much more of what’s living on the same planet as we are.via National Geogrpahiclast_img

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