New species are discovered all the time. In fact one hundred and thirty three new species were identified last year alone. So, while all these new species are being discovered rather frequently, let’s ask today’s big question: How many species are on Earth right now? Listen to this Question Your World radio report produced by the Science Museum of Virginia to find out.
If we take all the plants, animals, fungi, single celled organisms, and algae like things, we currently have about 1.2 million have been studied by science. However, there’s still a lot of discovery left ahead of us. Scientists say that 86% of species that live on land and 91% of those that live in the oceans have yet to be discovered! The current best guess on how much life is on Earth is at approximately 8.7 million different species.
Our planet is a pretty big place with plenty of room to hold our rich biodiversity. The Earth has a radius of 3,959 miles, that’s a lot of planet to study. We humans have been exploring the natural world ever since our species appeared on Earth nearly 250,000 years ago. Since then we’ve come up with ways to classify, examine, and study the many living things that provide the biodiversity our planet needs to have all the various ecosystems we have here.
In the past major expeditions have taken place to better understand the bounty of natural life that exists in the many diverse shapes and forms all around the globe. Lewis and Clark’s expedition through the continental land mass of North America resulted in the documentation of 178 newly discovered plant species and 122 animals to be documented for the first time ever. This expedition took them a few years, but they were able to map, survey, and document a vast amount of North America. That trek ended in 1806.
With that said, scientists and researchers from around the globe are still busy finding new life forms all the time. For example, recently 50 different spices of spiders were just discovered in Australia, none of which had ever been studied by humans before. These include remarkable new critters like the peacock spider, scuba-diving tarantulas, ant eating spiders, along with several others that were documented for the first time ever.
Also, all of these 50 species were discovered in just a two week span and only on one peninsula in Australia. Keep in mind that was just for 2 weeks and in just one location. This, of course, is rather short expedition when compared to folks like Lewis and Clark, but still reenforces the fact that there is just that much left to be known.
Clearly there are many more discoveries that lay ahead. However, for now we have at least discovered 50 new species just recently, which leaves about seven million left to go!