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99.999 Percent Of Earth’s Species Still Undiscovered

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A new study has found that the Earth may still be hiding up to   1 trillion species, roughly 135 species for every man, woman and child alive today. microbiallife-799 If the findings are true, they mean humans have yet to unearth 99.999 percent of all species.  “Microbial biodiversity, it appears, is greater than we ever imagined,” Jay T. Lennon, an associate professor of biology at Indiana University Bloomington, said in a press release.  Lennon and his colleague Ken Locey combed through databases from numerous government, academic and citizen science sources for their study, published this week in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. They compiled a list of over 5.6 million species, from the largest mammals to the smallest single-celled microbes, from 35,000 locations around the globe. According to the study, “tests of biodiversity theory rarely include both microbial and macrobial datasets.” As a result, biodiversity understanding is typically limited to the more “conspicuous species of plants and animals.”  But by including the microbial data, the team was able to uncover how rare or common host microbiomes are. They could then use “scaling laws,” a common toolset in the scientific community, to predict diversity as biological traits scale up, eventually reaching an estimate of how many species exist on the entire planet.  The task, Lennon said, is “among the great challenges in biology”

From Indiana University Photo Credit John Vlahakis

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