Navigation Links
What we know and don't know about Earth's missing biodiversity
Date:7/19/2012

Most of the world's species are still unknown to science although many researchers grappled to address the question of how many species there are on Earth over the recent decades. Estimates of non-microbial diversity on Earth provided by researchers range from 2 million to over 50 million species, with great uncertainties in numbers of insects, fungi, nematodes, and deep-sea organisms.

Some groups of species, such as plants and birds, are well-known, with scientists discovering relatively few new ones each year. For insects and fungi, however, it is almost impossible to guess how many unknown species there are.

These findings were revealed in a first-ever study by researchers from the National University of Singapore (NUS), James Cook University in Australia, Microsoft Research in the United Kingdom and Duke University in the United States, and was first published in Trends in Ecology & Evolution on 10 July 2012.

The researchers emphasise the importance of technology such as DNA barcoding, new databases and crowd-sourcing, that could greatly accelerate the rate of species discovery.

Unknown Biodiversity: Estimates

In their study, Scheffers and his colleagues collated information from numerous studies that attempt to estimate numbers and characteristics of unknown biodiversity. What may seem like straight forward questions about the Earth's biodiversity are "deceptively complex", warned the researchers.

"What we do know," said lead researcher Brett R. Scheffers, who is from the Department of Biological Sciences at NUS, "is that these unknown species are likely living in places where they are in danger of extinction, and that we could lose many before we realise how valuable they are."

"The problem is how one protects an animal that has never been seen," he added. "What we want to know is how many species there are, what they look like and where do they live."

The report suggests that many of these species are important for medicine, water purification and provide numerous other services for humanity. For instance, a group of marine snails - the cone snail - is important for drug development ranging from pain killers to treatment of neurological diseases. Many species of these snails are newly discovered, and there is likely many more still waiting to be discovered.

"We simply cannot afford to lose these species because of neglect and short-sided economic gains," explained co-author Professor William Laurance of James Cook University in Cairns, Australia.

Major Challenges

The researchers pointed out major challenges that complicate biodiversity inventory. These include accidentally assigning two different species the same name, and animals that look nearly identical and can therefore only be identified by genetic analyses.

Co-author Dr. Lucas Joppa from Microsoft Research in Cambridge, United Kingdom said, "Missing species will likely be hard to find, such as deep-sea organisms, high mountain species or those species that live beneath the ground. Missing biodiversity will be small - both in body size and the amount of area that they live in. This is a concern as both of these factors relate to a species vulnerability to environmental disturbances."

Advances in Technology

Although these challenges present real struggles for future records, Scheffers and his colleagues stress that progress is being made. Novel techniques, such as DNA barcoding, new databases and crowd-sourcing, could greatly accelerate the rate of species discovery.

"New technologies such as environmental DNA analyses now exist and can detect a species' presence from mere water samples without ever visually observing it," said Scheffers. "Data sharing technologies over the Internet about species locations and discoveries are also expediting and expanding the catalogue of life."


'/>"/>

Contact: Carolyn Fong
carolyn@nus.edu.sg
65-651-65399
National University of Singapore
Source:Eurekalert

Related biology news :

1. Study reveals good news about the GI of rice
2. Sandy beaches, hydrocarbon reservoirs, tectonic tilting: Its all about geology
3. A new vision for harnessing data about life on Earth
4. NIST launches new website to educate industry about alternatives to mercury thermometers
5. New discoveries about severe malaria
6. Purdue professor to speak before Congress about nanotechnology in brain treatment research
7. Study raises questions about use of anti-epilepsy drugs in newborns
8. Fruit flies provide new knowledge about uninhibited cell growth
9. Analysis raises atmospheric, ecologic and economic doubts about forest bioenergy
10. Whats in a surname? New study explores what the evolution of names reveals about China
11. Consumers need simple, concise messages about benefits of phytonutrients
Post Your Comments:
*Name:
*Comment:
*Email:
(Date:1/27/2016)... WEST CHESTER, Ohio , Jan. 27, 2016 /PRNewswire/ ... services supplier based in West Chester, Ohio ... and their award winning service staff, based in ... Track,s technical capacity and ability to provide modifications, installations ... John Dovalina , CEO of PLUS, commented, "PLUS ...
(Date:1/21/2016)... , January 21, 2016 ... a new market research report "Emotion Detection and Recognition ... Software Tools (Facial Expression, Voice Recognition and Others), ... Global forecast to 2020", published by MarketsandMarkets, the ... to reach USD 22.65 Billion by 2020, at ...
(Date:1/15/2016)... , Jan. 15, 2016 Recent publicized ... small to find new ways to ensure data security ... iOS and Android that ties ... biometrics, transforming it into a hardware authorization token. Customer ... swipe their fingerprint on their KodeKey enabled device to ...
Breaking Biology News(10 mins):
(Date:2/9/2016)... DelveInsight,s, "Protein-Tyrosine Phosphatase ... in depth insights on the pipeline drugs ... Phosphatase 1B (PTP1B) Inhibitors. The DelveInsight,s Report ... of development including Discovery, Pre-clinical, IND, Phase ... Report covers the product clinical trials information ...
(Date:2/8/2016)... 8, 2016  CytRx Corporation (NASDAQ: CYTR ... in oncology, today announced that it has entered ... Hercules Technology Growth Capital, Inc. and Hercules Technology ... financing. --> --> ... of financing under the loan and security agreement.  ...
(Date:2/8/2016)... ... February 08, 2016 , ... Thomas J. Todorow ... Executive Vice President for Corporate Services and the Chief Financial Officer at The ... Billing Operations, Treasury, Managed Care Contracting, Supply Chain, and Investments. , Prior to ...
(Date:2/8/2016)... , ... February 08, 2016 , ... ... wide range of loose, bulk foods at various stages of the production process. ... used to inspect large bulk products post packaging such as sacks of dry ...
Breaking Biology Technology: