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Earth Has 8.7 Million Species. We’ve Only Discovered 14 Per Cent of Them
August 24, 2011
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As of today, the world's population is 6,957,593,032 - that's a lot of people. You'd think with all those eyes and ears we would have discovered most, if not all of the other species on the planet. But we haven't. According to a new study, humans have only identified 14% of all the species on Earth.

The new estimate, which the study's authors call "the most accurate ever," puts the total number of species at 8.7 million. Scientists have formally identified about 1.5 million so far; getting the rest will take us 480 years, according to the report.

It's possible the task will take much less time, but that's not necessarily a good thing. The authors point out that accelerating extinction rates may end up shortening the amount of time it takes to identify the species that remain. According to the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment, over the past century documented extinctions among birds and mammals were 10 times higher than the norm over the past half-billion years. And various species we are aware of - like these honeybees - are already disappearing.


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