(ORDO NEWS) — Hundreds of hitherto unidentified mammal species are ‘lurking’ around the world, according to a new study. The researchers found that most of the unknown species are small, most likely bats, rodents, shrews and moles.
Specialists from Ohio State University, USA, say that these unknown mammals are hidden in part because most of them are small and very similar to already known animals. Outwardly, biologists would not be able to immediately recognize a new species.
“Small, subtle differences in appearance are harder to notice when you look at a tiny 10g animal than when you look at someone the size of a human,” the authors write. “You can’t tell they’re different species unless you do a genetic analysis.”
How did scientists understand that there are more species in the world?
For their work, the scientists used a supercomputer and machine learning techniques to analyze millions of publicly available gene sequences from 4,310 mammalian species. They also studied data on where animals live, their habitat, life history.
This allowed them to build a predictive model to identify mammalian taxa that are likely to contain cryptic species.
“Based on our analysis, the most conservative estimates are that there are hundreds of species of mammals in the world that have yet to be identified,” the scientists write.
However, this discovery in itself would not come as a surprise to biologists. Researchers estimate that only 1 to 10% of species on Earth have been formally described by researchers.
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