How many species are left to be discovered on this planet? The estimates of discovered species on a yearly basis is up to 15000. Most species that make this list are very small however still unidentified. Estimates from scientists are that the planet holds somewhere between 5million and 10 million species and we only discovered around 1.5 million another concrete reason to protect habitat. Here are some examples of recently discovered animals and plants. The cover picture is a tasmanian tiger here is a video about this animal.
Zoologists at the National Zoo in Washington, D.C. actually spent years being frustrated about their resident olinguitos’ inability to mate. But the olinguito is a small carnivore in the raccoon family, commonly confused with its identical-looking cousin the olingo. They were trying to mate the olinguito with an olingo, not realizing that it was an entirely different species.
An Olinguito (above) not to be confused with an Olingo (below) (Photo: Mark Gurney/WikiCommons CC BY 3.0)
(Photo: Jeremy Gatten/WikiCommons CC BY-SA 2.0)
That doesn’t mean the well-explored parts of the world have no surprises left for us: just last year, a new species of frog was discovered in New York City, of all places. However, if you want to discover a new animal, less-trodden areas are a better bet. The most rewarding spots tend to be the tropics, since there are a wider variety of plants and animals there than in temperate regions.
There are plenty of places in the tropics that haven’t been thoroughly sifted through, though. “Typically, if you were interested in finding new species, a very good thing to look at would be to understand where people have done research and surveys in the past, and then find the holes, the blank areas of the map that have been under-studied,” says Raxworthy.
The reasons why some places remain unexplored are not what you would expect. Inaccessibility, for example, is not really a problem in the modern age. Sure, there might not be any direct flights from a research institution to Motuo, China (no roads go there) or the desolate Kerguelen Islands in the southern Indian Ocean (you can only get there with a six-day boat ride from an island off the coast of Madagascar), but that doesn’t bother contemporary researchers much.
The remote Kerguelen Islands are one of the most isolated places on earth, and lie more than 2051miles away from the nearest populated location (Photo: MapData © 2015 Google)
“People who really enjoy fieldwork, they enjoy exploration, so they'd be up for the challenge,” says Raxworthy. And with the relatively cheap cost of international travel (compared to decades past, at least), a geographically remote place wouldn’t discourage researchers intent on finding new species–it might even encourage them.
So if it’s not physical inaccessibility, why are there still blank spots on the map? “I think a lot of it is really driven by politics,” said Raxworthy. The political situation can unnerve researchers far more than a long and uncomfortable boat ride, and national and regional instability can lead to waves of scientists alternately heading to (or avoiding) large swaths of land.
In the next few years, for example, expect to see a whole clutch of new species emerging from Cuba. American or U.S.-based researchers have long been barred due to economic sanctions from entering the country. But with the loosening of travel restrictions, a new crop of scientists are lining up to visit. Raxworthy, a U.S-based Englishman, is hoping to head to Cuba to study the island’s reptiles and amphibians within the year, and he won’t be the only one.
Cuba is an extreme example; more often, areas become possible to explore in stages as they become more stable. “In Colombia, different regions of the country fall under the control of different drug barons,” says Raxworthy. “So one year you can go to this mountain and do work over there, and the next year that's totally off limits and would be really dangerous to go there.” Tropical Africa falls along the same lines. Much of the Eastern Congo is frustrating for scientists, as it’s comparatively unexplored and likely to host a wide variety of new species, but dozens of warring factions make it an exceptionally dangerous destination.
Then there are the parts of the world that, right now, are simply a no-go. “I think for example, if you wanted to do work right now in a place like Somalia, you'd be crazy,” said Raxworthy. Northern Mali, near Timbuktu, is also largely off-limits thanks to the high chance of getting kidnapped. Afghanistan would be another tough one. But stability comes in waves, and at some point, it’ll become more safe for researchers to head out there—and as soon as they can, they will, and we’ll start seeing more new discoveries from those areas.
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