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Tropical scientists find fewer species than expected

number of species in the world. Such equations take into account the proportion of insects that are herbivorous, the proportion of all species that are insects or other members of the arthropod group, the proportion of all plant species that are found in New Guinea, and other factors. Depending on whether insects as a whole follow the pattern of beetles, whose food preferences are quite broad, or moths and butterflies, which are more particular, they estimated that the world contains a total of between about 4.8 million and 6 million species.

"Our estimates bring some reality to predictions about declining biodiversity in the sense that the consequences for insect herbivores of losing a particular host plant species may not be as dire as previously thought," Weiblen said. "But that is no reason to ignore the decreasing number of species worldwide. [Harvard biologist] E.O. Wilson predicted in his book 'The Future of Life' that half of all species will suffer extinction in 50 years if current land use patterns continue. Because the consequences are so severe, we've got to refine our predictions and conserve as many species as possible."


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Contact: Deane Morrison
morri029@umn.edu
612-624-2346
University of Minnesota
24-Apr-2002


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