According to the new findings, only one-thousandth of one percent of all the species had been identified till now.
“Species recognition is among the great challenges in biology and it is not possible that we have identified each and every species,” said one of the study authors Jay Lennon from Indiana University in Bloomington, Indiana, USA.
The scientists combined microbial, plant and animal datasets from government records, academic documents and citizen science sources, resulting in the largest compilation of its kind. Altogether, these data represent more than 5.6 million microscopic and non-microscopic species from 35,000 locations across all the world's oceans and continents, except Antarctica.
“Our study combines the largest available datasets with ecological models and new ecological rules for how biodiversity relates to abundance. This gave us a new and rigorous estimate for the number of microbial species on Earth,” Lennon explained.
“Until recently, we've lacked the tools to truly estimate the number of microbial species in the natural environment. The advent of new genetic sequencing technology provides a large pool of new information,” Lennon added.
“Microbial species are too small to be seen with the naked eye, including single-celled organisms such as bacteria and archaea, as well as certain fungi. There are more such species available in the world which are not yet counted and even imagined,” said researcher.