Thousands of New Animal Species Discovered


While using advances in technology for genetic research, scientists have unexpectedly found new species of animals. The new species have not previously been classified because they look the same as other species. But research reveals that these identical looking animals are so unlike in other ways that they are of separate species. The scientific literature reported 2,207 discoveries of such cryptic animal species between 1978 and 2006.

Intensively researched or biologically diverse areas are where most cryptic animals have been noticed. An analysis of the published findings of cryptic species concludes, that once these factors are accounted for, new species have been uncovered with equal frequency in all regions of the world and among all types of animals.

A large portion of the research that could detect cryptic species has been conducted in Europe and Asia. Consequently this region has the highest number of cryptic animals identified, with 447 species.

In North America, 268 cryptic animals have been found so far. In Central and South America researchers have encountered 177 cryptic species, in sub-Saharan Africa 148 species, south Asia 115, Australia and the South Pacific 184, and even 15 cryptic animals in the Antarctic.

The newly discovered species come from all phyla and classes in the animal kingdom and include 267 mammals, 94 birds, 151 fish and 996 insects. Scientists continue to discern more look-alike species at an increasing rate.

The authors of the cryptic animal meta-analysis point out that the widespread occurrence of these recently revealed species has implications for measuring the earth’s biodiversity and for animal conservation.

Markus Pfenninger and Klaus Schwenk. 2007. Cryptic animal species are homogeneously distributed among taxa and biogeographical regions. BMC Evolutionary Biology. 7: 121.

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