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Every Species on Earth

michael posted more than 12 years ago | from the mostly-bugs dept.

Science 308

nickynicky9doors writes: "National Geographic News relates that scientists to date have identified less than 2 million distinct species with from 10 million to more than 100 million still undiscovered. Likening this dearth of information to doing chemistry knowing only one third of the periodic table, biologist Terry Gosliner is involved in the All Species Foundation. The foundation is attempting to discover, identify and classify every living species and place the catalogue online over the next 25 years. It is hoped new technology and new recruits to the field of taxonomy will make the timetable viable."

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Every OS on earth... (-1)

Trolligula (527461) | more than 12 years ago | (#3119930)

Linux, Macintosh Or Windows?
Stability is critical in an OS. Stability is what ensures your computer will be working when you need it to work, vs. having to pay for a technician to come in and fix it. Based on my experiences with all three platforms, Windows is by far the most stable platform, with Macintosh ranking just behind and little known BSD following in third. I would say that Linux might be the next most stable OS after Windows, MacOS, and BSD.

This ranking alters slightly when considering the hardware layer. Inherently the most stable OS, Windows is still new and is not compatible with all the hardware available. The manufacturer of Macintosh - Apple - owns, designs and builds its own computers. This makes them inherently the most stable in the long run. Compare this to Linux, which just handles the software. It is the hardware manufacturers' and other software programmers' responsibility to make the Linux platform stable.

Unfortunately, because there are so many programmers trying to make the program stable from their own vantage point, Linux is an unstable OS. The best example I can come up with is having 1,000 plumbing companies come in and plumb a different part of a new house. Each company has its own way of doing things and the pipes, fittings or fixtures may just not work together smoothly. In the end, the owner might have a bunch of leaks. This is definitely a good way to describe what will happen with Linux.

The ease of use winner is the Windows, hands down. The reason I say this is the amount of time I have to take explaining something to someone on each platform. Windows is made to be easy and friendly. Macintosh follows in second and Linux is a distant third. The reason for Linux being so far behind is that it is UNIX-based. To install programs in Linux, you have to drop out into the command environment and type in arcane UNIX-based commands. Another good indicator of ease of use lies in networking PCs together. Linux, again, requires in-depth understanding, while Macintosh takes some understanding, and Windows takes the least. In the end, I can put a Windows PC on a network in about 10 minutes, while a Macintosh may take 30 minutes and a Linux box would take at least one to two hours.

Software and hardware availability is the actual crux of the issue. Again, let's go back to the OS layer. Because each OS speaks its own language, software programs that have been designed for one OS will not work on another. A program made for Linux, for example, will not work on a Windows-based PC (no big loss: I was unable to find anyLinux-based application that I would want to run that didn't have a better Windows alternative).

Now, there are plenty of "ported" software titles available. A ported software program is one that was made on one platform and then translated for use on another. Ported programs allow us to use documents created in a program on one platform with the same program on another platform. Here is an interesting tidbit: Microsoft Word was originally developed for the Macintosh and subsequently ported for use on DOS and then Windows.

Back to the primary issue of hardware/software availability. Windows wins this one hands down because of the sheer number of software titles available, with the Macintosh coming in second. The Mac lacks the specialty software titles, but it has equivalent hardware availability. Linux is a distant third. Linux hasn't been recognized by the major hardware/software vendors, due to it's "hobbist OS" background. That recognition would help by driving major corporations to port their programs and hardware over to the Linux platform. Currently, software and hardware corporations just don't want to waste their time on an operating system that is quickly being forgotten about.

Re:Every OS on earth... (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#3120077)

You ARE the WIPO Troll, aren't you? WHERE IS THE WIPO TROLL!?!?

You've got the GOAT in YOU!!! (-1)

RoboTroll (560160) | more than 12 years ago | (#3119932)

* g o a t s e x * g o a t s e x * g o a t s e x *
g8888888888888888888888888888888888888888888888 8g
o8/88888\8888888888888\888888888888/8888\88888 88o
a|8888888|8888888888888\8888888888|888888|888 888a
t|8888888`.8888888888888|888888888|8888888:8 8888t
s`88888888|8888888888888|88888888\|8888888| 88888s
e8\8888888|8/8888888/88\\\888--__8\\888888 8:8888e
x88\888888\/888_--~~8888888888~--__|8\888 88|8888x
*888\888888\_-~88888888888888888888~-_\8 888|8888*
g0000\_00000\00000000_.--------.______\ |000|0000g
o000000\00000\______//0_0___0_0(_(__>0 0\000|000 0o
a0000000\000.00C0___)00______0(_(____>00|00/00 0 0a
t0000000/\0|000C0____)/000000\0(_____>00|_/000 0 0t
s000000/0/\|000C_____)0000000|00(___>000/00\00 0 0s
e00000|000(000_C_____)\______/00//0_/0/00000\0 00e
x00000|0000\00|__000\\_________//0(__/0000000 |00x
*0000|0\0000\____)000`----000--'000000000000 0|00*
g0000|00\_0000000000___\0000000/_0000000000 _/0|0g
o000|00000000000000/0000|00000|00\00000000 0000|0o
a000|0000000000000|0000/0000000\00\000000 00000|0a
t666|6666666666/6/6666|666666666|66\6666 6666666|t
s666|666666666/6/666666\__/\___/6666|66 66666666|s
e66|66666666666/66666666|6666|6666666| 666666666|e
x66|6666666666|666666666|6666|6666666 |666666666|x
* g o a t s e x * g o a t s e x * g o a t s e x *

Troll 33 of 131 from the annals of the Troll Library [] .

Can it be? (-1)

Pr0n K1ng (160688) | more than 12 years ago | (#3119935)

I got the mother fucking first post of goodness. Again!

Re:Can it be? (-1)

Pr0n K1ng (160688) | more than 12 years ago | (#3119956)

Tight competition. I missed out this time. Keep your eyes out, I will be back.

Three posts in the first minute of the story. Mother fuckers.

Re:Can it be? (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#3119973)


Anonymous Coward

Re:Can it be? (0)

Teh Grammar Patroll (564578) | more than 12 years ago | (#3120078)

Please refrain from using profanity in your posts. It is impolite and reflects poorly on your grammatical and communication skills.

wait... (-1)

Mayor McPenisman (557253) | more than 12 years ago | (#3119937)

but if I stick my penis in there, won't it get stuck??

Re:wait... (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#3120056)

Nah, it'll just slide right in and out... You were talking about GOATSE, right?

...WIPO Trool?

Don't like those nasty new fullpage ads? (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#3119940)

Then turn them off [] !

I am a rare species (-1)

Wet_Pussy (518348) | more than 12 years ago | (#3119954)

but I am discovered. horny Japanese girl who likes to wear cotton panties and rub herself through them while she reads slashdot.

Re:I am a rare species (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#3120039)

Tubgirl [] ??? Is it true you dated the WIPO Troll???

WIPO (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#3119955)

Where the WIPO Troll? Where he at!?

We're also missing some math... (3, Funny)

mikeage (119105) | more than 12 years ago | (#3119957)

[we know] less than 2 million distinct species with from 10 million to more than 100 million still undiscovered. Likening this dearth of information to doing chemistry knowing only one third of the periodic table...

Seems to this non-biologist that it's more like knowing only 1/5th to 1/50th (or to be more precise, 1/50th to 1/5th) of the periodic table...

Forget species; What about Genus? +1 (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#3120155)

To whom Jon Katz belongs?

Re:We're also missing some math... (0)

syn3rg (530741) | more than 12 years ago | (#3120164)

[we know] less than 2 million distinct species with from 10 million to more than 100 million still undiscovered. How can you number something you don't know of yet. It would be hjust as accurate to say "[we know] less than 2 million distinct species with from 1 to more than 100 million still undiscovered." Talk about Junk Science...

nice work slashdot (0)

Mayor McPenisman (557253) | more than 12 years ago | (#3119960)

[[Likening this dearth of information to doing chemistry knowing only one third of the periodic table]]

how about likening this dearth to knowing only one third of the COMPOUNDS formed by those elements.

there are less then 100 million elements in the universe. Being several orders of magnitude WRONG just angers me.

They use Open Source catloging engine! (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#3119965)

From the article: "We have found ODK [] to be the best cataloging engine for this task."

thank you

Not really... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#3119967)

Likening this dearth of information to doing chemistry knowing only one third of the periodic table,

Think about this. How many different species exist for each genus? Its like doing chemistry and not knowing every single isotope for a particular chemical.

Humans and counting (1, Troll)

SirSlud (67381) | more than 12 years ago | (#3119968)

Why must we count everything?! We're like Midas, only everything we touch seems to disappear.

I think the stats are:

???? -> 1900 - 75 species extinct
1900 -> 1970 - 75 more species exitinct
1970 -> now - 75,000 species extinct

Do we really wanna find them all? :P

Re:Humans and counting (2, Informative)

Thud457 (234763) | more than 12 years ago | (#3120002)

"???? -> 1900 - 75 species extinct"

I believe that may be inaccurate. []

Re:Humans and counting (2, Interesting)

ekephart (256467) | more than 12 years ago | (#3120037)

Actually its not inaccurate at all, just very ambiguous. 4 ?s simply means there is some date before 1900 at which time there would be 75 species purged between that date and 1900.

Of course you are right in implying that the parent post has little if any merit as a valid relation.

Re:Humans and counting (2)

SirSlud (67381) | more than 12 years ago | (#3120096)

Yeah, what he said! (And I'm the parent poster in question, too. :)

I certainly didn't provide the stats for any other reason than potential food for thought. I'm certainly not saying the sky is falling, although its hard to disprove that humans are responsible for extinctions for reasons other than over hunting in a way that no species has been responsible for other species' extinction before.

Re:Humans and counting (2)

garcia (6573) | more than 12 years ago | (#3120045)

it gives people something to do. I personally don't care if we know every single last species on the planet but that is me.

As far as extinction goes. It happens. It happened in the past, it will continue to happen. I for one am for letting things happen as they do. When the dinos roamed it was for the most part hot, humid, and much like what we are heading for. If that is the case fine. If it kills off 90% of the species currently alive, fine. It happened before and new species formed.

Re:Humans and counting (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#3120053)

???? -> 1900 - 75 species extinct

What does ???? represent? It looks like you're saying only 75 species went extinct prior to 1900 but that's clearly wrong (dinosaurs, sabre tooth mammals, plenty more).

1900 -> 1970 - 75 more species exitinct
1970 -> now - 75,000 species extinct

Or, to be more exact, in 1900 to 1970 there were 75 species that we identified which then died off. It's not surprising that between 1970 and now we know of more extinct species because the science of identifying new species is significantly better than it was at the turn of the last century.

Re:Humans and counting (0, Troll)

linzeal (197905) | more than 12 years ago | (#3120087)

I agree let's just exterminate them instead of finding them. We are doing a good job already.

Re:Humans and counting (1)

TRACK-YOUR-POSITION (553878) | more than 12 years ago | (#3120105)

Gotta catch 'em all! Pokemon!

all of the elements ? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#3119969)

who says they have all of the elements ?

just because they cant predict that there are ones they havent found doesnt mean they have them all...

i bet the periodic table is missing at leats a 100 of them...

Re:all of the elements ? (1)

J'raxis (248192) | more than 12 years ago | (#3119995)

Assuming we could just keep gobbing together more protons and neutrons, there are an infinite number of elements. They just tend to break apart in a sec or two once you get passed 100 or so protons

Re:all of the elements ? (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#3120017)

Hi, Mr. WIPO Troll.

Re:all of the elements ? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#3120131)

What? He's not WIPO, he's Serial Troller.

Re:all of the elements ? (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#3120144)

I think he's Egg Troll.

Re:all of the elements ? (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#3120162)

He's KLERCK, you fool. Page-widening idiot, is what he is!!

. . . Stop me before I post again!

Re:all of the elements ? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#3120174)

No, he's the WIPO Troll. I read it on the Internet, so it must be true!!

Re:all of the elements ? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#3120188)


Re:all of the elements ? (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#3120202)

WIPO confessed... were you gone when it happened? Or are you just stupid?

Re:all of the elements ? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#3120217)

Uh, yeah. Youre all a bunch of wanks. Not WIPO, not Serial Troller, not Egg Troll, not Klerck (eeecchhh!!), but I may be Jon Katz. :)

The Anonymous Raxis

Re:all of the elements ? (2)

crow (16139) | more than 12 years ago | (#3120048)

The higher-numbered elements are really difficult to make. So far, the ones that have been made are unstable and have really short half lives. However, I've heard that there are theoretical models of even higher-number elements that should be stable (or at least a lot more stable than the ones that preceed them.

This is all from something I read on the Internet some time ago, so it must be true.

Re:all of the elements ? (1)

belg4mit (152620) | more than 12 years ago | (#3120157)

[ nt+stability]
Was that so hard?

Re:all of the elements ? (2)

AndyChrist (161262) | more than 12 years ago | (#3120099)

I propose a new periodic table starting with element 2/3, comprised of two quarks, and umm....2/3 of an electron. Because it rolls off the tongue better than a more accurate label, it will be called "halfium."

Re:all of the elements ? (2)

mindstrm (20013) | more than 12 years ago | (#3120158)

Really? On what basis?

Yes, there may be more heavy, stable elements. There are certainly more heavy, unstable ones (so they only generally exist for a very short period of time. VERY short)

Is it possible to catalogue all LIVING things? (1)

Parsa (525963) | more than 12 years ago | (#3119977)

What about the cutting down of the rain forest? Aren't things dying out all the time in that region because of industrialism? How are you going to keep an existing database of everything living if it changes so frequently? Sounds like a big undertaking with a less than good return.

Eating shit with a smile :) (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#3119981)

Someone please submit Richard Stallman to National Geographic for possible identification and classification. A nice heavy duty wood crate should do just fine for transportation of this rare creature.

Non-Human Life Forms (2, Funny)

Amarok.Org (514102) | more than 12 years ago | (#3119982)

HOLLISTER: OK. Just one thing before the disco, Holly tells me that he's sensed a non-human life form aboard.

LISTER: Sir, it's Rimmer!

Pyramid Scheme (5, Funny)

GigsVT (208848) | more than 12 years ago | (#3119983)

"Twenty-five years is one human generation," he said, "but it's six generations of students." If each successive student generation inspires similar growth in the next, "at the end of that pyramid you could have several hundred thousand new taxonomists."

Just classify a bug and send this email to 10 of your friends, and put your name at the bottom of the list, and remove the person at the top of the list!

The Timetable (0, Redundant)

AndyChrist (161262) | more than 12 years ago | (#3119984)

Oh, they won't need any new recruits. 25 years would be plenty of time for us to get the number of undiscovered species down to managable levels.

10 to 100 million what?? (1)

timjamesjones (518836) | more than 12 years ago | (#3119985)

How can they possibly know how many species are undiscovered?

Re:10 to 100 million what?? (3, Funny)

HCase (533294) | more than 12 years ago | (#3120028)

The same way you know how many toes you have on your feet, count. Oh wait... they can't count unfound stuff can they? Good question.... perhaps they picked a number that would return good grant money?

Re:10 to 100 million what?? (3, Insightful)

DeanPentcheff (103656) | more than 12 years ago | (#3120084)

On the off chance this was a serious question...
This is estimated using various sampling procedures. In simplified form, you can sparsely sample a large area for some taxon of interest. That gives you a low estimate of the number of species (you know you're missing lots of rare ones). Then you progressively more intensely sample smaller areas. (Why not intensely sample large areas? It's simply not possible to do it with available labor, plus intensive sampling tends to be destructive.) After a series of these efforts, culminating in complete sampling of very small areas (e.g. bagging an entire tree, gassing it, and identifying every single insect on it), you have a relationship between the intensity of sampling and the number of species (of a particular group) that you find. You can use that relationship to make (admittedly gross) estimates of how many species are still undiscovered in the rest of the sparsely-sampled world.

Re:10 to 100 million what?? (1)

belg4mit (152620) | more than 12 years ago | (#3120138)

Well they could always do something like the
Drake equation. Bunch of averaging, and there
might be some pretty obvious gaps or groups
that seem smaller than they ought to be.
You could also try extrapolating based on how
often you see species emerge in the fossil record.
That doesn't mean these are accurate but they
give you approximations. Think man, think!

Seperating species (1)

luugi (150586) | more than 12 years ago | (#3119988)

The difference between some species must be so small. They probably have a bunch of duplicates of species. I wonder what kind of scale do they use to seperate species out?

The ASF Business Plan (0)

susano_otter (123650) | more than 12 years ago | (#3119990)

1. Catalog all species
2. ???
3. Profit!

All Science... (1)

Ted V (67691) | more than 12 years ago | (#3119994)

All science is either physics or stamp collecting.

Who wants to go find some stamps? :)

Extinction vs. Discovery (1, Flamebait)

ekephart (256467) | more than 12 years ago | (#3120001)

Since we are interested in identifying all Earth's species, would it take longer to "discover" them all scientifically or perhaps to simply allow mankind with his pollution and environmental manipulation to continue erradicating species until we know all those remaining?

an easier way (1)

selderrr (523988) | more than 12 years ago | (#3120007)

instead of trying to tabulate the species that we haven't identified yet, how about plain dead eliminating them ? At the rate the US Air force is bombing Afghanistan, pretty everything should be dead down there.

Just declare all non-identified species as terrorists and we're done !

where does Pikachu fit on the species list... (0)

superpulpsicle (533373) | more than 12 years ago | (#3120014)

Oh wait, we'll just engineer one.

They should start with species-at-risk (2, Insightful)

puppetman (131489) | more than 12 years ago | (#3120023)

They might not be around in 25 years.

Any animal that competes with human beings, is a threat to human beings, or requires undisturbed access large pieces of land in areas close to human habitation should be done first. Elephants, tigers, grizzly bears, etc.

Also, better look at any plant or animal that has a high degree of integration with their ecosphere (global warming will change their ecosphere faster than they can adapt).

Oh, anything at either poles - human-based pollutants seem to gravitate to these areas.

Better get everything in the ocean as well - over fishing and other human activities is disrupting the food chain.

Any animal or plant that lives in any forest that is accessible by the logging companies probably should be classified early, as well.

Finally, any animal that has "trophy" value or is poached for body parts to be made into aphrodisiacs won't be around for long.

Re:They should start with species-at-risk (2)

garett_spencley (193892) | more than 12 years ago | (#3120071)

Reminds me of the Simpsons Episode:

"Hi I'm Troy McLure. You may remeber me from such films as 'Man vs. Nature: The Road to Victory!".


Re:They should start with species-at-risk (0, Offtopic)

deep6d (561929) | more than 12 years ago | (#3120166)

I was thinking more of the Burns "See My Vest" song.

Some men hunt for sport,
Others hunt for food,
The only thing I'm hunting for,
Is an outfit that looks good...

See my vest, see my vest,
Made from real gorilla chest,
Feel this sweater, there's no better,
Than authentic Irish setter.

See this hat, 'twas my cat,
My evening wear - vampire bat,
These white slippers are albino
African endangered rhino.

Grizzly bear underwear,
Turtles' necks, I've got my share,
Beret of poodle, on my noodle
It shall rest,

Try my red robin suit,
It comes one breast or two,
See my vest, see my vest,
See my vest.

Like my loafers? Former gophers -
It was that or skin my chauffeurs,
But a greyhound fur tuxedo
Would be best,

So let's prepare these dogs,
Kill two for matching clogs,

See my vest, see my vest,
Oh please, won't you see my vest.

Taxonomy isn't really very useful. (1)

grytpype (53367) | more than 12 years ago | (#3120024)

Molecular biology is where the action is at. Just looking at organisms and trying to classify them isn't really interesting or useful anymore.

Re:Taxonomy isn't really very useful. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#3120049)

What do you mean Taxonomy isn't very useful? Think of all the smiles it brings to a person to have their pet with them even after they've passed away. Shame on you.

Re:Taxonomy isn't really very useful. (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#3120112)

Isn't that taxodermy?

Re:Taxonomy isn't really very useful. (1)

mkoz (323688) | more than 12 years ago | (#3120111)

Sure... Keep telling yourself that, but I am afraid that you are very wrong.

I'm writing to Noah (2, Funny)

fruey (563914) | more than 12 years ago | (#3120026)

Noah got a pair of every species into his arc. I'll ask him, that should cover mammals.

For the sea, I suppose I could just use another scientific principle. Take a litre of sea water, identify the number of species in it, and multiply by the volume of the sea.

For the air, I'll command a NASA spy sattelite and have it log images to a website, and have all of /. classify the images which contain birds.

Hows that?

Chuck Jones found a few (1)

3prong (241218) | more than 12 years ago | (#3120029)

Let us not forget the several species uncovered by Chuck Jones in the Roadrunner cartoons.

Velocitous Maximus
Accelleratii Incredibus

Wile E. Coyote:
Appetitum Gigandum
Eatius birdius

Can't remember any more...

They can start by looking in my fridge (4, Funny)

kvn299 (472563) | more than 12 years ago | (#3120035)

I'm sure there are dozens of unidentified species living in there...

Imagine . . . (3, Funny)

JJ (29711) | more than 12 years ago | (#3120038)

. . . the size that Noah's Ark should have been with 10 million pairs of creatures onboard.

Re:Imagine . . . (2, Interesting)

Drachemorder (549870) | more than 12 years ago | (#3120128)

I'm sure the parent comment was made in jest, but I recall reading an article a while back in which somebody did a feasibility study on Noah's Ark and determined that there would actually be room to spare on it.

The trick is that you wouldn't have to worry about sea creatures or most insects, which could probably survive on their own, and there are really very few very large animals that would require lots of room.

Regardless of whether or not one is of a religious persuasion or believes in the Ark story, it was an interesting read. *shrug*

Imagine the diseases Noah had to carry personnally (1)

FirstNoel (113932) | more than 12 years ago | (#3120171)

There would have been tons of animals, but can you imagine how many diseases Noah and his family would have had to carry to give to his family line?

Sean D.

Count me out... (5, Funny)

OblongPlatypus (233746) | more than 12 years ago | (#3120042)

I hate tracking down bugs.

What do you mean, not those kind of bugs?

Species (3, Interesting)

Drachemorder (549870) | more than 12 years ago | (#3120054)

Part of the problem is determining exactly what constitutes a "species". Exactly where do the boundaries between different forms of life lie? That question is not nearly as easy to answer as it might appear at first glance, and it's easy to mislabel some creatures.

If you were to see, for the first time, a chihuahua and a St. Bernard next to each other, you might be tempted to label them as separate species at first, when in reality they're just different breeds of the same species. It would take a lot of study to determine how closely they were actually related.

If you draw the lines differently, you could probably get some extremely wild variations in the count for the number of species on Earth.

How did they come by that estimate? (3, Insightful)

Cutriss (262920) | more than 12 years ago | (#3120055)

National Geographic News relates that scientists to date have identified less than 2 million distinct species with from 10 million to more than 100 million still undiscovered.

I read the article and it doesn't seem to offer any evidence other than speculation as to where this number comes from. It seems kinda large to me. I know humans don't occupy *every* place on the planet, but there are very few areas within the top 10,000 feet of the Earth's crust that aren't accessible to humans already. Are they suggesting that life is blossoming in the mantle?

How exactly did scientists come upon this number?

Re:How did they come by that estimate? (2)

OblongPlatypus (233746) | more than 12 years ago | (#3120130)

Your question is a good one, but I really don't think their estimate is far off. Note that what they're talking about here is identification and classification, theyre not saying there are between 10 and 100 million species which have never been laid eyes upon by a human being.

I'll bet you that right this moment, an "undiscovered" species of insect is being squished by some annoyed guy in Africa.

Taxonomy... (5, Informative)

mkoz (323688) | more than 12 years ago | (#3120057)

As someone who has described a species (and a genus while we are counting) and someone who uses taxonomic literature all too frequently I feel like I can say a few things:

1. Taxonomy is really important. Most of biology rests on good taxonomy.
2. Good taxonomic work requires massive amounts of work and training.
3. Bad taxonomy is worse than no taxonomy.
4. Taxonomic work is massively under funded and under appreciated... and it will continue to be so... as long as the tenure system requires lots of high profile papers (which taxonomy papers are not high profile and they take a long time to write).

The more taxonomy is appreciated the better, and I really hope that they pull it off... But we have a better chance of microsoft embracing the open source software movement.


Ignorant Question.. (or maybe not..) (2)

ArthurDent (11309) | more than 12 years ago | (#3120062)

Um, how will they know when they've found everything?

Impossible Target (5, Interesting)

pmc (40532) | more than 12 years ago | (#3120065)

Nice idea, but it is not going to happen. For example, take deep sea hydrothermal vents [] . The life around these was completely unexpected (different species, but similar to other species else where). There is a high probability that other such unexpected islands of life remain to be discovered.

Secondly, take places like Lake Vostok [] . Possibly there is life in here, and if there is there is possibly life elsewhere entombed under a million years of ice.

Added to this is there is a certain vagueness as to what a species actually is. I can't remember the details, but there is a species of bird (a gull I think) that is present round to world. As you go from east to west the individuals change slightly, but can still interbreed (which is, more or less, the definition of what a species is). Whoever, once you go round the world you get back to where you started, the individuals either side of the start line can no longer interbreed with those on the other side of the line. (I'd draw an ascii diagram but I can't really be bothered fighting the lameness filter). Are all these individuals one species or not? (A good analogy is a line of individuals - each one is within an inch in height of both neighbours (== can interbreed). When you form the line into a circle the two former end members are two feet apart in height (== can't interbreed)).

Then you have just the sheer practical difficulty of getting to places where there might be life - Challenger Deep? The seabed under Challenger deep? Oil bearing shale 3 miles down? We know (from our sole visit to Challenger Deep) that there is some sort of life down there, but have no clue as to what species.

A worthwhile undertaking, but doomed from the start - we can't, currently, get definite about giant squid, nevermind microscopic sea creatures.

Deep Sea Exploration (1)

DCram (459805) | more than 12 years ago | (#3120075)

Every time we venture into the black depths we find many new, interesting creatures. If we calculate how much of the earth is still unexplored and how many new life forms we find every time we venture into one of these areas I'm sure you can see where they get these numbers.

Until we find new means of finding these animals and cataloging them I think that the 25 year estimate is quite optimistic. Why is it that we havent caught or even seen a living giant squid. For myself I find this type of research fasanating.

Sorry for the spelling :)

Genetic Blueprints (4, Interesting)

JJ (29711) | more than 12 years ago | (#3120080)

The article doesn't mention anything about taking genetic samples but it would not be a bad idea to store DNA samples of all living things. Of course, this would give a good way to do the taxonomy as well, since the diversion of the DNA can be traced backward.

I spy (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#3120085)

I've discovered the rare large-breasted-cock-gobbler working just 5 cubies away....

Depends on the meaning of "species" (5, Insightful)

AJWM (19027) | more than 12 years ago | (#3120086)

"Species" is one of those fuzzy terms that everyone thinks they know the meaning of, but on closer examination it's hard to pin down. Kind of like "teal" (is it blue? green? dark turquoise?) or "pr0n".

The current usage of the term can denote two groups of genetically identical (well, allowing for normal variation) animals but that do not share overlapping habitat ranges as separate species. Given the opportunity, they could interbreed and produce fertile offspring (the "classic" distinction of a species -- which fails utterly for things that reproduce asexually and for morphologically distinct animals -- like lions and tigers -- that can interbreed and produce fertile offspring, but generally don't).

Thus you get ecofreaks complaining about the imminent extinction of the left-handed mottled weed rat because the two fields where they live are about to be paved over, when in reality that critter is genetically identical to the right-footed fuzz-backed bush mouse and the big-eared worm-tailed ground squirrel that just happen to live in different areas and were originally described by different biologists.

So, what's their definition of "species"?

Re:Depends on the meaning of "species" (2)

antdude (79039) | more than 12 years ago | (#3120116)

One of the ant experts said something faimilar with his interesting comment on my message board recently:

"Not to interject too much philosophy... ...but the term "species" has a lot of ambiguity to it. In some cases there are very clear differences between groups of ants. In these cases, most people would feel comfortable calling different groups "species". However, there are plenty of other groups that continuously grade into one another, especially across geographic space. For example, a group of ants in California may be black along the coast but gradually turns yellowish as we move inland and into the interior of the continent. In some cases it is almost arbitrary whether or not to divide continuous variation into different species or not. There are other instances where distinct groups of ants hybridize with each other, introducing more ambiguity into what we call "species". As ant taxonomy advances, it is also clear that some groups were named twice, and others named once but actually pertain to several distinct groups. There are still many messes that need to be worked out. As a consequence, I would not attach too much significance to the exact number of species. There is as much human whim in that number as there is real biology." --Myrmecos1 -- Source/Link []

Some info from Blue Planet(the Discovery special) (2, Interesting)

Reedo (234996) | more than 12 years ago | (#3120092)

The ocean is a long, long ways from being completely explored. Especially the very deepest parts - in fact, everytime that they take a sub way down there, they find at least one new species. Every single trip! It's the place to be if you're a scientist and want to actually discover something new. Sure, the Rainforest has a ton of stuff yet, but mostly just tiny insects and such. That's not nearly as interesting as discovering a 10 pound fish that gives off a blue glow, or a bed of never before seen plant life that's able to sustain itself without photosynthasis.

Reminds me of... (1)

ashitaka (27544) | more than 12 years ago | (#3120097)

He would insult the Universe.

That is, he would insult everybody in it. Individually, personally, one by one, and (this was the thing he really decided to grit his teeth over) in alphabetical order.

When people protested to him, as they sometimes had done, that the plan was not merely misguided but actually impossible because of the number of people being born and dying all the time, he would merely fix them with a steely look and say, ``A man can dream can't he?''

11006 ant species as of 2/28/2002, & counting. (4, Informative)

antdude (79039) | more than 12 years ago | (#3120098)

Yesterday, I found this out this one [] of my message board [] threads.

Brief summary: "This is the latest figure reported at the American Museum of Natural History Social
Insects Website ("AntBase"), up by almost 500 since the last update. It has been estimated that another 20,000 remain to be described and named." --Dr. Ant

Wired News, CNN, and Netscape's News mentioned this Web site yesterday as well.

trying to start my own (1)

Municipa (99320) | more than 12 years ago | (#3120120)

I'm trying to write a website to do this. I've only recently started. I probably won't be looking for funding, but perhaps at some point donations for hosting if it ever became popular that I couldn't hosting it on the extra bandwidth I have already. I'm planning on it being a free site. Hopefully no ads, or maybe just text ads (I've taken a liking to the ones on k5).

I will rely on knowledgeable volunteers to make entries. As you can imagine, I've thought about it a little already and plan it to be very searchable. I want to storing predation information could make it possible to display large food cycle charts and an interesting way to browse the site. I'd like the data to be very high quality of course - hopefully people who specilize in knowledge of the organisms in question will be adding entries, but I want it to be easy to use. As someone commented earlier 'taxonomy isn't useful anymore'. I really don't know, but I think at the least it could be useful for people who want to find out "what I just saw in my backyard".

If anyone has ideas or sugessions, I'd appreciate hearing them.

speculations (2)

Alien54 (180860) | more than 12 years ago | (#3120129)

It is evident from the information that we have already, that all biological forms of life are descended from one form back in the dawn of time.

If we ever get off the rock, it will be interesting to see if the forms of life out there all use the same coding in dna, etc. or are using other forms.

In a similar vien, all, if not most of the computer languages out their are based in some way on English, etc. I wonder which progamming would look like if it was all based on japanese or chinese. how much would be similar, and how much would be profoundly different? It is not all mathematics, after all.

Funding (1)

wbajzek (471841) | more than 12 years ago | (#3120137)

I think this might have trouble getting adequate funding, since it has nothing to do with going to Mars :)

Not Like Chemistry (3, Insightful)

wizarddc (105860) | more than 12 years ago | (#3120139)

This is not at all like the periodic table in chemistry. If you know anything about the periodic table, you can predict the existence of elements because of slots that a certain number of protrons and neutrons fill. Biology is much more complex and harder to predict.

--avandesande []

Who needs more than 34 elements anyway? (1)

k98sven (324383) | more than 12 years ago | (#3120140)

Hydrogen and helium make up 99% of the universe.
Living things are mostly H,C,N,O,S and P.

What did Astatine ever do for me??

Chemistry analogy is flawed (4, Insightful)

micromoog (206608) | more than 12 years ago | (#3120149)

Likening this dearth of information to doing chemistry knowing only one third of the periodic table, biologist Terry Gosliner is involved . . .

This is not a good analogy. Chemistry, like math or physics, is an exact science where elements are used as "building blocks" for other elements and compounds. Taxonomy is an inexact science, and the fact that a rare Jamaican fruit fly doesn't have a name yet will not affect other areas of science.

More information is always better, but suggesting that this lack of information somehow cripples biologists is sensationalism.

How do they know?? (1)

Java Pimp (98454) | more than 12 years ago | (#3120151)

How do they know there are 10 to 100 million species yet to be discovered? They haven't been discovered yet.

This is just like when they say 10 percent of the U.S. poplulation wasn't counted on the last census. Now, how do they know that!

Who are these people? Where did they go to school?

10 million to more than 100 million... (2, Funny)

pinkUZI (515787) | more than 12 years ago | (#3120172)

Why can't scientists ever just admit when they don't know a figure, rather than give some ridiculous range.

A simple suggestion (2)

Junior J. Junior III (192702) | more than 12 years ago | (#3120178)

Just wait 25 years...

And at the rate we're going, the number of species on the planet will have dwindled to around 3 million or so by then. This will make the job much easier.

All the undescribed species already in museums. (1)

axolotl_farmer (465996) | more than 12 years ago | (#3120186)

I'm a PhD student in entomology, and I have collected insects in the tropics.

Usually collectors set traps that catch thousands of insects and then pick out the specimens they are interested in personally (usually a very narrow sampling). The rest of the insects usually just go all mixed up to a museum in a jar of alcohol. The label usually just say something like "Malaise Trap, Sumatra 1967 Collector E. Neuman".

At the Swedish Museum of Natural History, where I work, there are jars of assorted insects collected all over the world dating back to the 1930s, just waiting to be picked through.

Species. (2)

mindstrm (20013) | more than 12 years ago | (#3120189)

Keep in mind... tha vast, vast majority of those species are going to be beetles, followed by other insect and "bugs", followed by very, very tiny organisms.

Hasn't quantum physics taught us anything... (1)

los furtive (232491) | more than 12 years ago | (#3120195)

Once you observe something, you change its state. Maybe we shouldn't be "flooding the fields" with scientists looking at every single variation of every single species. The last thing fragile ecosystems need is an army of scientists trampling through them. Why not keep the pace the same as it currently is? Can we really handle the wealth of information we are already receiving? This sounds more like a well intentioned mission statement to generate some funding.

Insect evolution rates are problematic (5, Interesting)

FleshMuppet (544521) | more than 12 years ago | (#3120198)

In order to understand why these estimates are so large, you have to realize the incredible biodiversity of the plan and insect kingdoms. Plants make up to 22 percent [] of the total number of species, and insects pretty much account for the rest [] . Mammals take up considerably less than 1% of that total.

Many of these species have such high evolutionary rates that they can evolve very quickly and often fill extremely specialized roles in a niche environment. Given this high rate of evolution, the mind-bogelling estimates of the total number, and the intrusionary nature of detection techniques, isn't this goal a little too unrealistic? It would seem to me that by the time you finally have catalogued them 'all,' a good percentage will have become extinct and whole bunch of new players will have emerged. In addition, verifying the continued existance of these species whould be an enourmous job.

Can someone explain this to me: (-1, Flamebait)

Profane Motherfucker (564659) | more than 12 years ago | (#3120200)

"relates that scientists to date have identified less than 2 million distinct species with from 10 million to more than 100 million still undiscovered."

and "the catalogue online over the next 25 years. It is hoped new technology and new recruits to the field of taxonomy will make the timetable viable."

What the fuck is this fucking noise? If it took us all of the goddam human history to discover 2 fucking million out of 100 million of those cocksuckers, how the hell are those assholes suppsed to get the rest in done 25 fucking years. Hmm, let's do the math: humans around, messing shit up for the last 25,000 years. Now, we can do shit 10,000 fucking times faster? Will someone take the cock out of my ass, this hurts.

This sounds like an attempted assrape. I'm not fucking joking here. This is a teensy fucking bit suspicious. Put me down and catalog this: This bitch ain't gonna fucking happen. And, like some witty cunt said: if they aren't discovered, how the fuck do we know they exist? is similar, but only with ant species (2)

antdude (79039) | more than 12 years ago | (#3120218)

A link [] about [] . CNN, Wired News, and Netscape's News mentioned about this Web site yesterday.

Brief description from CNN article: "Whether you're looking for fire ants, carpenter ants or some tetramorium flavithorax, the first complete database of the world's 11,000 known ant species can help you out. Scientists say is a unique resource for scholars, ecologists or anyone interested in myrmecology -- the scientific study of ants."

indexing the database? (2)

Sebastopol (189276) | more than 12 years ago | (#3120220)

So lets say I'm endomologist and I happen upon what I believe to be a new species of roach. How exactly does someone pin this as a brand-spankin-new species? I mean, is it possible that there are mistakes, meaning, someone accidentally claimed a new latin name for their discovery when one already existed?

how would this database be indexed if someone did find what they think is a new species? would they enter keywords, which are highly subjective?

someone mentioned a DNA snapshot, a gel image. that would be easier to index b/c it represents in GUID (global unique id... ;-). ...but the resolution of the gel sample wouldn't be high enough for the large number of species.

perhaps in the process of compiling this database, the authors will inadvertently upset the taxonomy applecart.

either way, this should be fairly exciting, but i don't want to look forward to being 55 years old and finally have the database on line! (it's hard enough waiting for warcraftIII)

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