(Wikimedia Commons Image)
Each year, scientists discover an average of 15,000 new species, usually ones that are highly endangered. But can this trend of discovery continue, and are we reaching a limit on how many species actually exist in the world?
Researchers have documented more than 1.2 million species. A paper published this year in the journal PLoS Biology, however, concludes that the number represents a drop in the animal, plant and other life kingdom bucket. Lead author Camilo Mora and colleagues predict that there are 8.7 million species globally.
"In spite of 250 years of taxonomic classification and over 1.2 million species already catalogued in a central database, our results suggest that some 86 percent of existing species on Earth and 91 percent of species in the ocean still await description," Mora, director of the Mora Lab at the University of Hawaii at Manoa, and his team wrote.
The researchers used data on past discoveries, including the taxonomic classifications, to make their predictions. Here they are broken down by groups: