Scientists Rush To Find (And Name) Species To Save Them

Jun 9, 2014

Scientists are racing to catalog as many new species as possible before they go extinct. The data can be useful in preserving key habitat.
Credit Juan Rendon / Saving Species

Species are going extinct about 1,000 times faster than they should be because their habitat is being destroyed. That's according to new research led by Duke University.

Conservation Ecology Professor Stuart Pimm said the worse news is that nearly 90 percent of the species are unknown to scientists.

Pimm runs an organization called Saving Species that helps connect conservation programs with donors, to help slow the destruction of key habitat. Their web site uses data maps to identify high concentrations of species at risk of extinction.

“We know we can't save everything. Funds for conservation are limited,” said Pimm. “So it's important that we allocate our limited resources to protecting and restoring the most vital places.”

For example, SavingSpecies is working to protect the olinguito, the first carnivore discovered in 30 years. Its habitat in the western Andes is also home many other plants and might host many species scientists don’t yet know about.

Pimm says he's optimistic that growing species databases will close the gap in scientists' knowledge of species, and more effectively slow extinction rates.