8.7 million. According to recent research, that’s the estimated number of species of plants and animals on Planet Earth, give or take 1.3 million. About three-quarters are land-based and the majority of those are insects. See my next By the Way column for the latest on eating that majority.
The estimate of species is amazingly high, but this is much more amazing:
An astonishing 86% of all plants and animals on land and 91% of those in the seas have yet to be named and catalogued, the study said.
Scientists have been trying to count and catalogue the living world for 250 years, since around the time when the Linnaeus devised his method of cataloging and naming living things. Current estimates range from 3m to 100m.
“It’s not that we just don’t know the names in the phone book. We don’t know how big the phone book is,” said Derek Tittensor, a co-author who works for the UN Environment Programme.