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Vanishing Species

Counting our Natural Blessings

A study by Canada’s Dalhousie University postulates that as many as 86 percent of Earth’s species are still unknown, and millions of organisms will remain undiscovered as extinctions accelerate worldwide at 10 to 100 times their natural rate.

If, as the study’s co-author Boris Worm suggests, our planet is home to 8.7 million species, it means scientists have cataloged fewer than 15 percent of species now alive. Many unknown organisms will wink out of existence before they can even be recorded.

Although the catalog of mammals and birds may be nearly complete, inventories of other classes of life are far behind. Only 7 percent of the predicted number of fungi and fewer than 10 percent of all ocean life forms have been identified.

Categorizing a new organism is more complicated than discovering one. “It’s a long process,” Worm explains. “Most scientists will describe dozens of species in their lifetime, if they’re really lucky. What’s been discovered so far are those things that are easy to find, that are conspicuous, that are relatively large. There is an age of discovery ahead of us when we could find out so much more of what lives with us on this planet.”

Source: National Geographic

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