The Race to Catalog Living Species Before They Go Extinct

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The U.S. has spent several billion dollars looking for life on other planets. Shouldn’t we spend at least that much finding and identifying life on Earth?

That is the argument behind a taxonomy analysis by a trio of scientists in Science, published on January 25. They argue just $500 million to $1 billion a year could ensure that all species were described and catalogued within 50 years. New tools will help too: the genetic “barcode of life” ensures that a species description is appropriate while expert-driven Catalogue of Life and an ambitious effort to inventory more than 200,000 marine species are succeeding. The Internet and smartphones are also aiding the cause.

Since the turn of the century, 17,500 species have been officially described per year—and the rate is increasing (largely because more people are looking from different parts of the world than previously).

There’s a lot of duplication, however. By the researchers own count, at least 20 percent of the 1.9 million species known to science are in fact not species at all, but “synonyms”—in other words, some species are named more than once. That brings the number down to 1.5 million identified species.

Written By: David Biello
continue to source article at blogs.scientificamerican.com

4 COMMENTS

  1. ‘Before they go extinct’…. bloody hell, what a species were are. It will be our fate too the way we treat our planet. AS IF there is anywhere else to go…. there’s a big fat fantasy as good as any religion out there.

  2. There’s a lot of duplication, however. By the researchers own count, at least 20 percent of the 1.9 million species known to science are in fact not species at all, but “synonyms”—in other words, some species are named more than once. That brings the number down to 1.5 million identified species.

    Duplication is why the International Rules of Nomenclature were devised and applied. There used to be much more duplication when regional common names were used.

    Since genetic descriptions have started replacing phenotypical observed similarities, lots of synonyms have been linked, and duplication reduced.

  3. Correction, that should read “before we go extinct” since we are the only ones capable of recording the information and we are likely to be eradicated ourselves in the hope of eternal life long before many of the species under study.

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