pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov
COVID-19 Information
Public health information (CDC)
Research information (NIH)
SARS-CoV-2 data (NCBI)
Prevention and treatment information (HHS)
Español
Log in

Advanced
How many species are there on Earth and in the ocean?
Camilo Mora et al. PLoS Biol. 2011 Aug.
Free PMC article
Abstract
The diversity of life is one of the most striking aspects of our planet; hence knowing how many species inhabit Earth is among the most fundamental questions in science. Yet the answer to this question remains enigmatic, as efforts to sample the world's biodiversity to date have been limited and thus have precluded direct quantification of global species richness, and because indirect estimates rely on assumptions that have proven highly controversial. Here we show that the higher taxonomic classification of species (i.e., the assignment of species to phylum, class, order, family, and genus) follows a consistent and predictable pattern from which the total number of species in a taxonomic group can be estimated. This approach was validated against well-known taxa, and when applied to all domains of life, it predicts ~8.7 million (± 1.3 million SE) eukaryotic species globally, of which ~2.2 million (± 0.18 million SE) are marine. 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% of existing species on Earth and 91% of species in the ocean still await description. Renewed interest in further exploration and taxonomy is required if this significant gap in our knowledge of life on Earth is to be closed.
Conflict of interest statement
The authors have declared that no competing interests exist.
Figures
Figure 1. Predicting the global number of…
Figure 2. Validating the higher taxon approach.
Figure 3. Assessment of factors affecting the…
Comment in
Why worry about how many species and their loss?
May RM. PLoS Biol. 2011. PMID: 21886482Free PMC article.
Similar articles
Antarctic marine biodiversity--what do we know about the distribution of life in the Southern Ocean?
Griffiths HJ. PLoS One. 2010. PMID: 20689841Free PMC article. Review.
Marine biodiversity characteristics.
Boeuf G. C R Biol. 2011. PMID: 21640952 Review.
Marine biodiversity in Japanese waters.
Fujikura K, et al. PLoS One. 2010. PMID: 20689840Free PMC article. Review.
Diversity of Southern Ocean deep-sea benthos between cosmopolitism and cryptic speciation: new species from the ANDEEP expeditions.
Schüller M, et al. Zootaxa. 2013. PMID: 26146684
Censusing marine eukaryotic diversity in the twenty-first century.
Leray M, et al. Philos Trans R Soc Lond B Biol Sci. 2016. PMID: 27481783 Free PMC article. Review.
See all similar articles
Cited by 325 articles
Biological Control of Pest Non-Marine Molluscs: A Pacific Perspective on Risks to Non-Target Organisms.
Christensen CC, et al. Insects. 2021. PMID: 34203229Free PMC article.
Deep-sea biodiversity at the extremes of the Salas y Gómez and Nazca ridges with implications for conservation.
Friedlander AM, et al. PLoS One. 2021.PMID: 34191822 Free PMC article.
Carabid beetle (Coleoptera, Carabidae) richness, diversity, and community structure in the understory of temporarily flooded and non-flooded Amazonian forests of Ecuador.
Riley Peterson KN, et al. Zookeys. 2021.PMID: 34183894 Free PMC article.
Tracking the invasive hornet Vespa velutina in complex environments by means of a harmonic radar.
Lioy S, et al. Sci Rep. 2021. PMID: 34108526Free PMC article.
What Animal Cancers teach us about Human Biology.
Kattner P, et al. Theranostics. 2021. PMID: 34093847Free PMC article. Review.
See all "Cited by" articles
References
May R. Tropical arthropod species, more or less? Science. 2010;329:41–42. - PubMed
May R. M. How many species inhabit the earth? Sci Amer. 1992;10:18–24.
Storks N. How many species are there? Biodiv Conserv. 1993;2:215–232.
Gaston K, Blackburn T. Blackwell Science Ltd; 2000. Pattern and process in macroecology.
Erwin T. L. How many species are there? Revisited. Conserv Biol. 1991;5:1–4.
Publication types
MeSH terms
Related information
Cited in Books
LinkOut - more resources
Full Text Sources
Europe PubMed Central
PubMed Central
Public Library of Science
Other Literature Sources
Faculty Opinions
The Lens - Patent Citations
Miscellaneous
NCI CPTAC Assay Portal
NCBI Literature Resources
MeSH PMC Bookshelf Disclaimer
FOLLOW NCBI
Follow NLM
National Library of Medicine
8600 Rockville Pike
Bethesda, MD 20894
Copyright
FOIA
Privacy
Help
Accessibility
Careers
NLMNIHHHSUSA.gov
Title & authorsAbstractConflict of interest statementFiguresComment inSimilar articlesCited byReferencesPublication typesMeSH termsRelated informationLinkOut - more resources