Evolution Discussion

Christos Ouzounis ouzounis at eros.embl-heidelberg.de
Thu Feb 24 06:38:37 EST 1994

In article <CL8M1E.ww9 at sernews.raleigh.ibm.com>, wpainter at vnet.ibm.com writes:
> ...
> Since I am educated in Computer Science, and I am a layman in Molecular
> Chemistry, I would like to start with a question.
> What are the current estimates on the total number of species of plant and 
> animal life in the world today?

Molecular biologists are not perhaps the best people to ask such as question.
The problem of biodiversity has been addressed a long time now, and from some
sources, including E O Wilson's "The Diversity of Life", it seems that the
current estimates are around 10 to 100 Million species, of which only around
1 Million have been classified (have a scientific name, not even an adequate
description). From those, a few thousand have been _studied_ scientifically.

> What are the current estimates of the total number of species of plant and 
> animal life that have existed on the Earth since its formation and the first 
> appearance of life 3.5 billion years ago?

The estimates of the number of species lived on earth are 100 times that,
which is around 1 to 10 Billion species. These are pretty good estimates
at the level of the order of magnitude. By the way, molecular biologists
study less than 100 species in total, with the hope that the coverage is
quite representative for all domains of life.

C A Ouzounis

ouzounis at embl-heidelberg.de

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