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Biodiversity : The Variety of Life on Earth Index

Collecting, Describing and Classifying
How Biologists Classify Species : Similarities and Differences
Putting Things into Groups

Topic Chapters Index

 

Research Activity

Try to find at least one species which has been discovered in the last twenty years. Some hints :
A new species of deer in Southeast Asia?
A "megamouth" shark?
Any new insects?
A new kangaroo in Australia?

Have any new species of shark been discovered recently?  © Shirley Burchill

Tip: Encyclopedias are good for historical information but not for recent discoveries. Use the Internet or scientific magazines to help you with your research.

 

Fact File No. 85

There are close to 7,5 billion people on the planet Earth but they all belong to one species, the human species. The Latin name for the human species is Homo Sapiens.

 

BIODIVERSITY : THE VARIETY OF LIFE ON EARTH

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Each type of living organism is called a species. So far, biologists have identified about 1,400,000 types of living organisms on Earth. There are thought to be between 4 million and 20 million species on this planet, so there are at least two and a half million new species waiting to be discovered. Biologists call this immense variety of living organisms biodiversity.

A species (plural = species) is a group of living organisms which have similar characteristics. The members of a species are capable of having offspring with other members of the same species. Roses produce new rose bushes. Cows produce baby cows. A rose could not produce a baby cow. Members of one species cannot breed with members of another species.

 

Elephants produce baby elephants © Shirley Burchill

 

Recent Discoveries

Although scientists have explored most of the continents on Earth and the number of the recently discovered species is small, little is known about what life is like in the more inaccessible areas of the world. The depths of the oceans, for example, are only just beginning to be explored scientifically; they may still hold some big surprises.

Some parts of the world are particularly rich in species. This is where scientists are most likely to find new ones. For example, the treetops of tropical rain forests and the warm waters around coral reefs are areas of intense concentration of a wide variety of species.

 

A giant clam, Great Barrier Coral Reef, Australia © Shirley Burchill

Daintry Rainforest, Queensland, Australia  © Shirley Burchill

 

Some groups of organisms are not very well known because scientists have not taken the time to study them. These include mites, fungi and bacteria. Even among the well-known groups of animals, though, new species are being discovered. An average of two new species of bird are identified each year.

 

Lion fish  © Shirley Burchill

Lizards, Bristol Zoo, UK © Shirley Burchill

 

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