In 2012, researchers described a teensy, aspirin-sized chameleon, Brookesia nana, from a thin slice of rainforest in northern Madagascar. The species, which experts believe is the smallest reptile in the world, grabbed plenty of headlines worldwide. Mario Moura, a former postdoctoral associate in ecology and evolutionary biology at Yale University and current professor at the Federal University of Paraíba in Brazil, says it’s pretty common to find species that are new to science, especially in parts of the world such as Madagascar. “I think most people believe that we know most species on Earth … but in the best-case scenario, we know 20% of Earth’s species,” Moura told Mongabay in an interview. The Gonzaga’s leaf frog (Pithecopus gonzagai) was first seen by scientists in 2020 in Northeastern Brazil’s Atlantic Forest. Image by Diego Santana. Moura and his colleague, Walter Jetz, a professor of ecology and evolutionary biology at Yale, recently published a study in Nature Ecology & Evolution that investigates the untapped potential of the world’s unknown species, focusing on terrestrial vertebrates, including amphibians, reptiles, mammals and birds. The duo created a map of the world that shows where most undescribed terrestrial vertebrates might be located. While previous studies have looked at how many undescribed species there are, this study aims to identify these species’ locations and the taxonomic groups to which they belong. “We know that 80% of Earth’s species are undiscovered, but where are they?” Moura said. We are moving from [questions] like, ‘How many species are there’ to questions like ‘where’ and ‘what.’” The…This article was originally published on Mongabay Läs mer

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