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

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

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