What we know and don't know about Earth's missing biodiversity.

Published

Journal Article (Review)

Estimates of non-microbial diversity on Earth range from 2 million to over 50 million species, with great uncertainties in numbers of insects, fungi, nematodes, and deep-sea organisms. We summarize estimates for major taxa, the methods used to obtain them, and prospects for further discoveries. Major challenges include frequent synonymy, the difficulty of discriminating certain species by morphology alone, and the fact that many undiscovered species are small, difficult to find, or have small geographic ranges. Cryptic species could be numerous in some taxa. Novel techniques, such as DNA barcoding, new databases, and crowd-sourcing, could greatly accelerate the rate of species discovery. Such advances are timely. Most missing species probably live in biodiversity hotspots, where habitat destruction is rife, and so current estimates of extinction rates from known species are too low.

Full Text

Duke Authors

Cited Authors

  • Scheffers, BR; Joppa, LN; Pimm, SL; Laurance, WF

Published Date

  • September 2012

Published In

Volume / Issue

  • 27 / 9

Start / End Page

  • 501 - 510

PubMed ID

  • 22784409

Pubmed Central ID

  • 22784409

Electronic International Standard Serial Number (EISSN)

  • 1872-8383

International Standard Serial Number (ISSN)

  • 0169-5347

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)

  • 10.1016/j.tree.2012.05.008

Language

  • eng