Almost 500 New Species Discovered at Senckenberg: Newly Discovered Species in 2011 and 2012

Jan. 25, 2013 — In the last two years scientists at the Senckenberg research institutes have discovered and described almost 500 new species. Taxonomy and scientific collections are among the most important focal points of the Senckenberg Gesellschaft für Naturforschung.


Whether in the deep sea of the Antarctic, in the rainforests of Laos or in domestic, pastoral landscapes — scientists from the ten Senckenberg institutes have discovered new species of plants and animals everywhere. They have even made new discoveries in allegedly familiar research collections — either by studying previously unidentified material or using new research methods. “The objective always is to record and preserve the diversity of life on earth, in other words, biodiversity,” explains Prof. Dr. Dr. h.c. Volker Mosbrugger, Director General of the Senckenberg Gesellschaft für Naturforschung.

491new species from all parts of the globe were described in the last two years by Senckenberg scientists. The extent of new discoveries ranged from colourful island crabs to the Yellow Dyer Rain Frog and fossilised woodpeckers to the first eyeless huntsman spider. Some of the animals have barely been discovered and are already threatened with extinction. “Taxonomy also serves to protect animal species,” explains Dr. Peter Jäger, arachnologist at Senckenberg and himself the discoverer of 46 new spider species in 2011 and 2012. “Only those who know the species variety can develop the necessary protection programmes.” After all, over 100 animal species still die out every day — despite all of the new discoveries.

In 2011 and 2012 Senckenberg researchers discovered 404 living species and 87 fossilised species, of which 416 live on land and 75 in the oceans. Most of the new species (324) come from Asia, while no fewer than 96 species come from Europe. As expected, due to their renowned biodiversity, the arthropods (which include insects, spiders, crabs and myriapods) led the pack of new discoveries with over 300 species, followed by molluscs (64) and plants (30). Both genetic and traditional methods such as morphological examinations were used. “2012 was the most successful Senckenberg year so far, with 331 newly discovered species,” adds Mosbrugger and continues: “We have therefore described around two percent of all newly discovered species worldwide.”

In the last 5 years Senckenberg scientists have discovered over 1,100 new species. Yet the biologists and palaeontologists do not plan to rest on their laurels. “Estimates to date on the global diversity of species differ greatly: experts estimate the number to be between three and 100 million species,” explains Jäger. What is certain is that most of them have never been seen by humans.

There still remains much to do and there are many exciting things yet to be discovered in the field of taxonomy at the Senckenberg institutes.

 

Story Source:

The above story is reprinted from materials provided bySenckenberg Research Institute and Natural History Museum.

Note: Materials may be edited for content and length. For further information, please contact the source cited above.


Senckenberg Research Institute and Natural History Museum (2013, January 25). Almost 500 new species discovered at Senckenberg: Newly discovered species in 2011 and 2012.ScienceDaily. Retrieved January 30, 2013, from http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/01/130125103929.htm

What We Know and Don’t Know About Earth’s Missing Biodiversity

ScienceDaily (July 17, 2012) — Most of the world’s species are still unknown to science although many researchers grappled to address the question of how many species there are on Earth over the recent decades. Estimates of non-microbial diversity on Earth provided by researchers range from 2 million to over 50 million species, with great uncertainties in numbers of insects, fungi, nematodes, and deep-sea organisms.


Some groups of species, such as plants and birds, are well-known, with scientists discovering relatively few new ones each year. For insects and fungi, however, it is almost impossible to guess how many unknown species there are.

These findings were revealed in a first-ever study by researchers from the National University of Singapore (NUS), James Cook University in Australia, Microsoft Research in the United Kingdom and Duke University in the United States, and was first published in Trends in Ecology & Evolution on 10 July 2012.

The researchers emphasise the importance of technology such as DNA barcoding, new databases and crowd-sourcing, that could greatly accelerate the rate of species discovery.

Unknown Biodiversity: Estimates

In their study, Scheffers and his colleagues collated information from numerous studies that attempt to estimate numbers and characteristics of unknown biodiversity. What may seem like straight forward questions about Earth’s biodiversity are “deceptively complex,” warned the researchers.

“What we do know,” said lead researcher Brett R. Scheffers, who is from the Department of Biological Sciences at NUS, “is that these unknown species are likely living in places where they are in danger of extinction, and that we could lose many before we realise how valuable they are.”

“The problem is how one protects an animal that has never been seen,” he added. “What we want to know is how many species there are, what they look like and where do they live.”

The report suggests that many of these species are important for medicine, water purification and provide numerous other services for humanity. For instance, a group of marine snails — the cone snail — is important for drug development ranging from pain killers to treatment of neurological diseases. Many species of these snails are newly discovered, and there is likely many more still waiting to be discovered.

“We simply cannot afford to lose these species because of neglect and short-sided economic gains,” explained co-author Professor William Laurance of James Cook University in Cairns, Australia.

Major Challenges

The researchers pointed out major challenges that complicate biodiversity inventory. These include accidentally assigning two different species the same name, and animals that look nearly identical and can therefore only be identified by genetic analyses.

Co-author Dr. Lucas Joppa from Microsoft Research in Cambridge, United Kingdom said, “Missing species will likely be hard to find, such as deep-sea organisms, high mountain species or those species that live beneath the ground. Missing biodiversity will be small — both in body size and the amount of area that they live in. This is a concern as both of these factors relate to a species vulnerability to environmental disturbances.”

Advances in Technology

Although these challenges present real struggles for future records, Scheffers and his colleagues stress that progress is being made. Novel techniques, such as DNA barcoding, new databases and crowd-sourcing, could greatly accelerate the rate of species discovery.

“New technologies such as environmental DNA analyses now exist and can detect a species’ presence from mere water samples without ever visually observing it,” said Scheffers. “Data sharing technologies over the Internet about species locations and discoveries are also expediting and expanding the catalogue of life.”

 

Journal Reference:

  1. Brett R. Scheffers, Lucas N. Joppa, Stuart L. Pimm, William F. Laurance. What we know and don’t know about Earth’s missing biodiversity. Trends in Ecology & Evolution, 2012; DOI: 10.1016/j.tree.2012.05.008

 

National University of Singapore (2012, July 17). What we know and don’t know about Earth’s missing biodiversity. ScienceDaily. Retrieved July 18, 2012, from http://www.sciencedaily.com­ /releases/2012/07/120717084802.htm