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Animal Extinction Rates Overestimated: Study

Jan 27, 2013 04:53 AM EST
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A researcher from Australia claims that the rates of animal extinction are overestimated.

Professor Nigel Stork, from Griffith University, Australia, said that there is no evidence that the extinction rates are as high as what has been previously estimated.

Stork took part in an international study, "Can we name Earth's species before they go extinct?" published in the journal Science. Stork and the other scientists have accepted that there is an extinction crisis across the globe, but suggest that the rate of extinction might not be as bad as was previously thought.

"Surprisingly, few species have gone extinct, to our knowledge. Of course, there will have been some species which have disappeared without being recorded, but not [as] many [as] we think," he said in a statement.

The scientists point out that the number of species on the planet has been previously exaggerated, ranging up to 100 million. This has led the scientific community to believe that it is not possible to name all the new species before they become extinct. But, researchers involved in the new study have estimated that the total number of species on Earth ranges from two to eight million.

There is also an increase in the number of taxonomists, who identify and describe a new species, as against a common belief that the number of taxonomists has gone down. While this is true in developed countries where governments are reducing funding, the number of taxonomists is on the rise in developing nations, said the researchers.

With the rise in taxonomists, scientists believe it is possible to name most of the world's plant and animal species before they become extinct. Once species are officially named, it would help them to increase conservation efforts and protect the species. However, researchers do acknowledge that describing all species will still be a mammoth task. "The task of identifying and naming all existing species of animals is still daunting, as there is much work to be done," Stork said. 

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