When it comes to our knowledge of the Earth and the species that call it home, we can all consider ourselves in the 1 percent. Make that 0.001 percent actually, as we have yet to identify the remaining 99.999 percent of our planet's species.
Does that blow your mind or does that blow your mind? Once you piece your brain back together, this startling fact actually makes a lot of sense. Name all the species you know off the top of your head and how many do you get? I'll wait.
Did you get to twenty? Thirty including the common dwarf mongoose? Not a bad start, but you still have just under one trillion left to go.
According to one new study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, this planet could likely be home to a trillion species -- the vast majority of which scientists have yet to unearth and identify. The Huffington Post calculates that to be about 135 species for every living person.
Imagine that you have 135 different species all to yourself and it's easy to see how insane that number is. But how can that be? Jay T. Lennon, an associate professor of biology at Indiana University Bloomington, says,
Microbial biodiversity, it appears, is greater than we ever imagined.
After sifting through dozens of databases with his colleague, Ken Locey, Lennon gathered a list of approximately 5.6 million known species from around the globe. They then poured over stacks of microbial data to uncover the rarity or commonality of various host microbiomes.
By cataloging 10 million species of microbial life and still barely scratching the surface of microbial diversity, Lennon and his team were able to arrive at that trillion species estimate. Realistically, we'll never be able to identify them all individually. In an interview with IFLScience, Locey says arriving at this estimate is still helpful because,
Just like mapping the Milky Way and other galaxies helps us understand and appreciate our place in the universe and its history, understanding the immense diversity of microbial life helps us understand and appreciate our place in the evolution of life on Earth.
Translation: We're all dumb as rocks but there's still hope for us yet.