Hundreds of new species are being discovered worldwide every year, at a rate of about one new species every day. The number of new species that we find in Ecuador is particularly overwhelming. And they are not just species that are analyzed under microscopes. We are talking snakes, hummingbirds, mammals like the olinguito, or even emblematic species like the Pink Iguana of Galápagos.
These are recent discoveries, such as the smallest orchid in the world by the orchid expert Lou Jost (who has already found more than 60 previously unknown orchid species to date). In terms of size, there are new tree species described every year, including a new magnolia. One would think that such large life forms would have already been identified by somebody, but the reality is that there are not enough scientists to investigate the incredible diversity of living organisms that inhabit our Earth, and at a rate that will assure their timely discovery; that is, before they are lost forever.
Last year alone, 24 new species of frogs were described; imagine the number of insects (let alone microorganisms) that we ignore and that, as I write these words, we are losing to forest destruction.
Before we knew it
As much as we are discovering species, we are losing them… at an unprecedented rate. So far this year, it is believed that over forty of the most critically endangered species have become officially extinct. That does not include those that already no longer exist in the wild, but only in captivity.
The list of critically threatened species exceeds 16,000 according to data from the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). But the degree of global deforestation and habitat destruction is so high that, in less than ten years, we could easily see the extinction of a tragic and chilling number. Moreover, such destruction also hides the true number of species that are disappearing, since, as we mentioned, life-forms that have not even been discovered yet will perish at the same time. Extinction data in itself is misleading. We unfortunately know far too little about what actually exists in our natural world. Studies say 86% of the world’s species remain to be described! We know more about the stars in the universe than we know about what we have here on our very own planet.