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Your Questions About How To Discover New Species

Donna asks…

Will we find any new species of animals in europe or north america?

I’m not sure if we will on land in europe but there could be some new species in the seas around europe and maybe some of the lakes. In north america I think there could be some new discoveries.
Also is there any new animals discovered in europe or north america in the past few years or decades?

New Niche Finder answers:

There is probably little doubt that we will.

It is perhaps unlikely that we will discover large species of animal (there are still some poorly covered parts of North America though – there could be something new in the Florida swamps for example).
Smaller species are still being discovered fairly regularly – and not just the small parasites and invertebrates previously mentioned.

Many of these are species that have been overlooked due to there similarity to other species. There are also numerous examples where scientists decide that animals previously treated as subspecies or races should be classified as full species (many birds have recently been ‘split’ in this way – including some where the American and european races were previously considered con-specific).

A few examples of new species;

Cypriot Mouse (Mus cypriaeus) – first recognised in 2004, formally described 2 years later.

Common Pipistrelle (Pipistrellus pipistrellus) and Soprano Pipistrelle (P. Pygmaeus) – Two bats species first recognised as different in 1998.

Fish; 57 new species apparently discovered recently in Europe (Ok, not land animals but 57 is quite a lot!).

Birds – numerous species have been ‘split’ in recent years, including the American Black Scoter (Melanitta americana) and European Common Scoter (M. Nigra), officially recognised as separate species in 2004 in America and 2005 in Britain.

And finally one invertebrate (a fairly large one); Bulgarian Emerald (Corduliochlora borisi) – A dragonfly discovered in Europe in 1999. Now treated as a new genus not just a new species.

Mary asks…

Does NJ have any programs or groups that deal with invasive species of animals?

I’ve discovered another introduced/invasive species of crayfish, one that could potentially be a bigger problem than the previous two we have. However, NJDEP and NJ Fish & Wildlife seem to care little about freshwater invertebrates (among other things), so I’m at a loss on who to report this finding to.

New Niche Finder answers:

Contact your local assemblyman and state senator
they may convince the bureaucreacy to take action.

Good luck.

Steven asks…

How many species are there in planet earth?

I want to know how many species of living organisms in EARTH?

New Niche Finder answers:

Scientists have found about 2 million different species but there are more to be discovered. About 90% of species on earth have been identified. So no one knows the exact number yet.

Lisa asks…

How do comparative zoologists know that a fossil is different than known living species?

Sometimes, comparative zoologists and acheologists determine that a bone fragment found constitutes an entire different species. Can this really be deduced from a buried bone fragment sometimes millions of years old? Are these guesses or fact? Also, if there are no complete skeletons of certain animals (such as some dinosaurs) how can zoologists really know that some dug-up bone fragment belongs to an entirely different species?

New Niche Finder answers:

The answer is in your question: comparative zoologist. They find a feature which is not present in any living animal, it may be quite minute, like the small bump on a bone where the tendons would have attached, but the proportions are different from anything else. Then, the idea is to rule out a freak deviation or an infirmity or the result of a wound that healed strangely; and again, the archaeologist know what to look for to rule those things out.
In conclusion, those are very educated guesses, and more often than not, they are spot on — more fossils discovered late showing the same characteristics.
This is why the comparative idea is important. A bump that would indicate attachment of a ligament would be bigger for a very strong animal, one fast runner for instance, than for a slower moving one, even if the bones are about the same size overall. And that is as true for existing animals as for dinosaurs that dies 65 million years ago.
As for incomplete skeletons, finding a bone that is, say, similar in appearance to that of one for which a complete skeleton exists, but with small differences, the paleontologist can deduct that this animal is a cousin of one for which a more complete description exists, and so on.

Nancy asks…

How much must a species change for it to be considered a new species?

I was thinking about evolution and mutations but if a human child is born with a mutation like an extra arm/leg etc., it is still a human.. How much must a species change to be considered a new species?

New Niche Finder answers:

Don’t forget that it is the *SPECIES* that changes, not an individual human.

Thus no individual born, no matter how totally “different”, constitutes a new “species.” At the very least, that individual needs to be able to mate with other humans in order to continue its own traits, and so that individual, by definition is the same species.

The answer is that if you just consider one species changing through time, there is no “line” at which it becomes a new species. This is precisely why scientists have lots of debates when they discover a new fossil about what to *name* it. (Is it a “late Homo habilis” or an early “Homo erectus”?) It may be clear that they are physically different enough to be considered separate species … But the exact dividing line in time where one species “ended” and the next “began” is not always clear … Especially since populations of the first species can continue to live long after the second species has branched off.

What is far more clear is when a single species branches into two species (called speciation). We don’t need fossils to see this relationship. The answer is simply … However long it takes for two populations to have changed enough *genetically* to be unable to interbreed and produce fertile offspring. At that point they are two separate species … Because any hybrids (if any), crosses between the two species, have no way to continue the species.

Note that this may or may not involve significant changes. Chihuahuas and great danes are *very* different physically, but are sill technically members of the same species (because technically they can still interbreed and produce fertile offspring). But many species of insects can be absolutely indistinguishable, but are different *species* … They cannot interbreed (there are at least seven different species of the anopholes mosquito that have been genetically identified as separate *species*, even though they are physically indistinguishable).

So don’t get confused that it’s all about “big” changes. Sometimes tiny indistinguishable differences can still be considered separate species, and sometimes huge obvious differences are not enough to produce a new species.

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