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Norway's Taxonomy Initiative Identifies 1,100 New Species

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Dec 19, 2013 01:21 PM EST

In 2009, Norway began a scientific campaign to identify all of its native species. Now, researchers with the Norway Taxonomy Initiative are reporting that 1,165 new native species have been identified in the country so far, with more than 25 percent of the species being new to science altogether.

The research is focused on describing poorly known species groups across Norway's various ecosystems. The range of native species is vast, from insects and lichens, to new types of molluscs and cold-water sponges, and their identification gives scientists and policymakers a better foundation for understanding the functions and complexity of the country's ecosystems.

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"These are very good results that provide new knowledge of both individual species and ecosystems," said Ivar Myklebust, director of the Norwegian Biodiversity Information Centre.

 A crawfish that lives on the seabed along the Norwegian coast, Campylaspis costata is one of the 76 known species of crawfish found in Norwegian waters that we now know more about as a result of inventories conducted for the Norwegian Taxonomy Initiative. CREDIT: Henrik Glenner, University of Bergen
A crawfish that lives on the seabed along the Norwegian coast, Campylaspis costata is one of the 76 known species of crawfish found in Norwegian waters that we now know more about as a result of inventories conducted for the Norwegian Taxonomy Initiative. CREDIT: Henrik Glenner, University of Bergen

Although more than 1,000 new species have been identified, the researchers say it does not even scratch the surface of the total number of native species living in Norway, which is estimated to be around 55,000. The 1,165 new native species identified are added to the 41,000 native species that have been identified in Norway. Many of the as-yet-unidentified species are believed to be flying insects such as wasps, flies and mosquitoes.

"Norway's land, seas and coastal areas have a unique variety of landscapes and ecosystems with great variation over short distances, which is rare in a global context," said Tine Sundtoft, Norway's Minister of Climate and the Environment. "This gives us a rich and varied flora and fauna. The Government will take our management responsibilities seriously."

The taxonomy project relies on genetic testing of species, as well as identifying distinguishing physical characteristics of Norway's flora and fauna. Since 2009, more than 200 new fungi have been found on land, and in the nation's waters 157 new marine species have been identified.

About 18 percent of Norway's newfound terrestrial species are considered undescribed, while for smaller marine organisms, the proportion of undescribed species may be as high as 90 percent, the researchers said.

Aplacophorans are wormlike molluscs that live partially buried in the seabed. Simrothiella n.sp. is a to-date undescribed species that has been found in great numbers in Rijpfjorden on Svalbard.CREDIT: Christiane Todt, University Museum of Bergen
Aplacophorans are wormlike molluscs that live partially buried in the seabed. Simrothiella n.sp. is a to-date undescribed species that has been found in great numbers in Rijpfjorden on Svalbard.CREDIT: Christiane Todt, University Museum of Bergen

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