No one knows how many different kinds of animals and plants are alive today, and, sadly, we never will.
A survey in 2011 suggested that there are nearly 8 million species of animals and nearly 300, 000 species of plants. Astonishingly, nearly 90% of these species have yet to be discovered, described or named. Many are found in hard-to-reach places, such as tropical rain forests or the deep oceans. Given the rate of man-made habitat destruction, it is possible that many of these species will become extinct before they can be named by scientists.
These 8.1 million species are, for now, the success stories of evolution. Each is a unique way of solving the problems of surviving and reproducing in an unforgiving and changing environment.
All species, like this humpback whale, have special characteristics that allow them to survive in their chosen habitats.
But if the habitats change too much, such as when when the oceans become acidified, rainforests are cut down or burned, then species may no longer be able to survive and they become extinct. Forever.
- Why does it matter that species of organisms become extinct before scientists can discover them?