Discoveries of new mammal species and their implications for conservation and ecosystem services

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Media Type: Article - Foundational

Date of Publication: December 21, 2008

Year of Publication: 2008

Publisher: National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America

Author(s): Gerardo Ceballos, Paul R Ehrlich

Journal: Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America PNAS

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ABSTRACT: In light of recent discoveries of many new species of poorly-studied organisms, we examine the biodiversity of mammals, a well known “charismatic” group. Many assume that nearly all mammal species are known to scientists. We demonstrate that this assumption is incorrect. Since 1993, 408 new mammalian species have been described, ≈10% of the previously known fauna. Some 60% of these are “cryptic” species, but 40% are large and distinctive. A substantial number persist only in areas undergoing rapid habitat destruction. Our findings suggest global animal and plant species diversity is badly underestimated even in well studied taxa. This implies even greater threats to ecosystem services and human well-being than previously assumed, and an increased need to explore, understand, and conserve Earth’s living resources.

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