AboutZoos, Since 2008


Over 400 new liv­ing species dis­cov­ered at Senck­en­berg Institutes

pub­lished 27 Jan­u­ary 2013 | mod­i­fied 27 Jan­u­ary 2013
Crab insulamon palawanenseIn the last two years sci­en­tists at the Senck­en­berg research insti­tutes have dis­cov­ered and described almost 500 new species. Tax­on­omy and sci­en­tific col­lec­tions are among the most impor­tant focal points of the Senck­en­berg Gesellschaft für Natur­forschung.

Tax­on­omy also serves to pro­tect ani­mal species
Peter Jäger, arach­nol­o­gist at Senck­en­berg »

Whether in the deep sea of the Antarc­tic, in the rain­forests of Laos or in domes­tic, pas­toral land­scapes – sci­en­tists from the ten Senck­en­berg insti­tutes have dis­cov­ered new species of plants and ani­mals every­where. They have even made new dis­cov­er­ies in allegedly famil­iar research col­lec­tions – either by study­ing pre­vi­ously uniden­ti­fied mate­r­ial or using new research meth­ods. “The objec­tive always is to record and pre­serve the diver­sity of life on earth, in other words, bio­di­ver­sity,” explains Prof. Dr. Dr. h. c. Volker Mos­brug­ger, Direc­tor Gen­eral of the Senck­en­berg Gesellschaft für Natur­forschung.

491 new species from all parts of the globe were described in the last two years by Senck­en­berg sci­en­tists. The extent of new dis­cov­er­ies ranged from colour­ful island crabs to the Yel­low Dyer Rain Frog and fos­silised wood­peck­ers to the first eye­less hunts­man spi­der. Some of the ani­mals have barely been dis­cov­ered and are already threat­ened with extinc­tion. “Tax­on­omy also serves to pro­tect ani­mal species,” explains Dr. Peter Jäger, arach­nol­o­gist at Senck­en­berg and him­self the dis­cov­erer of 46 new spi­der species in 2011 and 2012. “Only those who know the species vari­ety can develop the nec­es­sary pro­tec­tion pro­grammes.” After all, over 100 ani­mal species still die out every day – despite all of the new dis­cov­er­ies.

In 2011 and 2012 Senck­en­berg researchers dis­cov­ered 404 liv­ing species and 87 fos­silised species, of which 416 live on land and 75 in the oceans. Most of the new species (324) come from Asia, while no fewer than 96 species come from Europe. As expected, due to their renowned bio­di­ver­sity, the arthro­pods (which include insects, spi­ders, crabs and myr­i­apods) led the pack of new dis­cov­er­ies with over 300 species, fol­lowed by mol­luscs (64) and plants (30). Both genetic and tra­di­tional meth­ods such as mor­pho­log­i­cal exam­i­na­tions were used. “2012 was the most suc­cess­ful Senck­en­berg year so far, with 331 newly dis­cov­ered species,” adds Mos­brug­ger and con­tin­ues: “We have there­fore described around two per­cent of all newly dis­cov­ered species world­wide.”

In the last 5 years Senck­en­berg sci­en­tists have dis­cov­ered over 1,100 new species. Yet the biol­o­gists and palaeon­tol­o­gists do not plan to rest on their lau­rels. “Esti­mates to date on the global diver­sity of species dif­fer greatly: experts esti­mate the num­ber to be between three and 100 mil­lion species,” explains Jäger. [The upper limit of this range has recently been ques­tioned by Costello and col­leagues – read more, Moos]. What is cer­tain is that most of them have never been seen by humans.
There still remains much to do and there are many excit­ing things yet to be dis­cov­ered in the field of tax­on­omy at the Senck­en­berg insti­tutes.

(Source: SENCK­EN­BERG – world of bio­di­ver­sity press release, 25.01.2013)
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