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The Research

According to a new study appearing in the journal Biology, the number of species on Earth is estimated to be 8.7 million, give or take 1.3 million, with more than 80% of species remaining to be discovered.

According to the study:

It means that a staggering 86% of land species and 91% of marine species remain undiscovered.

We still have a lot of exploring to do.

The study used a new way of extrapolation to estimate the total number of species. Using a pyramid type hierarchical structure, the researchers ordered catalogued plants and animals in this order:

  • Phylum (highest)
  • Class
  • Order
  • Family
  • Genus
  • Species (lowest)

Each lower group has more individuals than the last, and from the numbers that we already have, they predicted the number of species through extrapolation from that number.

Estimates like this answer a fundamental scientific interest, and becomes increasingly important in a world where we have to find out how much biodiversity will be lost and how many ecosystems will be affected due to the efforts of humans.

Story Source: Number of species on Earth tagged at 8.7 million

Journal Source: Mora, C. , Tittensor, D. P. , Adl, S. , Simpson, A. G. B. & Worm, B. PLoS Biol. 9, e1001127 (2011).