How To: How Much Would It Cost to Discover Every Animal on Earth?

How Much Would It Cost to Discover Every Animal on Earth?

Are you prone to crusades of the overambitious? Well, here's one for you: try to find and identify every animal on earth. You may think scientists have a handle on this, having pinned down 1.4 million animal species so far, but there are millions more are out there, waiting to be found. Brazilian scientists have put the cost of finding the rest at a decisive $263 billion.

In case you don't have that much cash on hand, you can scale your ambition down a bit and just see how many you can locate. The Brazilian team estimates that the average taxonomist uncovers about 25 new species during their career, at a cost of $97,000 per year including salary, equipment, and cost of expeditions. Of course, their universities fit the bill.

But, some species are cheaper than others. Finding and describing a new species of worm, for instance, will only set you back $39,000 while identifying a new species of bird would cost $122,000, according to the Brazilian scientists. All you'd need to bag a worm is a plane ticket to a remote island, a spade, a rubber-maid container, a microscope, and your own precious time. A new species of bird needs to be followed, caged, transported, fed, more advanced tools to pick it apart, and more time to watch it's life cycle.

The totally DIY option is to take taxonomy up as a hobby, declining money for your time. If you join a naturalist society, share tools, and make an animal discovery nearly for free as an old-fashioned naturalist. Here's how it might be done:

Step 1 Decide which kind of animal you wish to discover.

Species, genus... you get the idea.

Step 2 Pick up a taxonomy book.

Study up on what kinds of these animals have already been found and what they look like.

Step 3 Choose the appropriate tools for animal-finding.

Binoculars for birds and small and large mammals, magnifying lenses and microscopes for bugs and worms.

Step 4 Go to an area where few naturalists have looked.

Even better is an area where few humans have gone in general—like rural Africa, the tops of Sequoia trees, or the ocean floor.

Step 5 Take notes on the animal's behavior in the wild.

Take a photo or sample of any animal that looks unfamiliar to your newly educated brain.

Step 6 Compare the photo or sample to known species.

Does it look or act different enough to be a new species?

Step 7 Get an expert's opinion.

Find an expert on your particular animal and have them take a look to confirm or deny your suspicions.

Step 8 Name your new species whatever you want as long as it sounds Latin.

"Godzillius robustus." Wait—that's already taken.

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Photo by Olympus
SOURCE Trends in Ecology and Evolution VIA Science

1 Comment

Casey! Would love to share some personal experiences with you on this. My house backs up to a forest and I have been documenting some unusual creatures for about 5 years. Have vids and pics. Problem is, they are so, so strange. I cannot get anyone to take me seriously. I am on FB, Twitter and LinkedIn. I live near Seattle.

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