Researchers have put together a new map which they suspect highlights the remaining underexplored corners of the Earth which may be home to vast numbers of as yet undiscovered species of animal and plant life.
Ecologists Mario Moura and Walter Jetz created a model, using speculative cartography techniques based on existing datasets of known and newly discovered species, to extrapolate the most likely hiding spots where as yet unknown species of invertebrates might be ‘hiding’ around the world.
They accept that their model is unlikely to be 100% accurate, but it does acknowledge biological, environmental, and sociological factors in determining just how many species may still be unknown to science and where they are most likely to be found.
“Conservative estimates suggest only 13% to 18% of all living species may be known at this point, although this number could be as low as 1.5%,” researchers from Yale University said.
“Without inclusion in conservation decision-making and international commitments, these [undiscovered] species and their functions may be forever lost in ignorance.”
Over 32,000 terrestrial vertebrates are already known to science, but new species are being discovered all the time.
The team highlights the ‘obvious’ first, ‘obscure’ later, rule of thumb when it comes to taxonomy: larger animals with large habitats across a broad geographical range are the most likely to be known to humanity while smaller animals with limited territory might have slipped through the scientific or geographical cracks.
The researchers identified Brazil, Indonesia, Madagascar, and Colombia as the most likely nations to contain the most undiscovered vertebrate species, potentially accounting for roughly a quarter of estimated future discoveries.
Tropical forests around the world are expected to cover another 50% of the unknown creatures.
Conservationists, taxonomists and biologists can only hope to make good use of the research and identify the missing species from the Earth’s circle of life before these unknown species are lost forever.
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