The world now has 8.7 mn species

August 24th, 2011 - 2:57 pm ICT by IANS  

London, Aug 24 (IANS) The natural world now contains about 8.7 million species, says a new report described by scientists as the “most accurate ever”.

However, the vast majority of species have not been identified. Cataloguing all of them could take more than 1,000 years, according to BBC.

The vast majority of the 8.7 million are animals, with smaller numbers of fungi, plants, protozoa and chromists that include algae and other micro-organisms. The figure excludes bacteria and some other types of micro-organisms, says the report in the journal PLoS Biology.

However, only 14 percent of the world’s species have yet been identified. Of that, only nine percent belong to the oceans.

Derek Tittensor, of the UN Environment Programme’s World Conservation Monitoring Centre and Microsoft Research in Cambridge, worked on the project alongside scientists from Dalhousie University in Canada and the University of Hawaii.

“We’ve been thinking about this for several years now - we’ve had a look at a number of different approaches, and didn’t have any success. So this was basically our last chance, the last thing we tried, and it seems to work,” Tittensor said.

The team looked at the relationship between species and the broader groups to which they belong.

Groups of related species belong to a genus, which are clustered into families, then orders, then classes, then phyla, and finally into kingdoms.

The researchers measured the relationship between the discovery of new species and the discovery of new higher groups, and then used it to predict how many species there are likely to be.

Dalhousie researcher Sina Adl said: “The approach accurately predicted the number of species in several well-studied groups such as mammals, fishes and birds, providing confidence in the method.”

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