Hide and seek

18 May 2011

New research published in Proceedings of the Royal Society B estimates that there are a staggering number of amphibian species left to be discovered – more than 3000 – as well as at least 160 land mammal species not yet known to science.

Scientists undertook a comprehensive mathematical analysis of classification efforts for living and extinct species of amphibians and land mammals and used the results to predict how many species we might have still to find and where we might expect to find them.  While previous research has looked at undiscovered species in particular regions, this study is the first attempt to examine the issue on a global scale.

The researchers suggest that tropical forests are the most likely locations for the species yet to be discovered, given that they are relatively unexplored and are also known to harbour an extraordinary richness of plant and animal life.  However, they point out that urgent international efforts are needed to conserve these habitats if we are to avoid losing these undiscovered species, stating that “Today’s ‘hidden’ biodiversity need not vanish without a trace.  It is up to us to try to prevent such a tragedy.”