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Biodiversity : The Variety of Life on Earth Index
BIODIVERSITY : THE VARIETY OF LIFE ON EARTH
Each type of living organism is called a species. So far, biologists have identified about 1,400,000 types of living organisms on Earth. There are thought to be between 4 million and 20 million species on this planet, so there are at least two and a half million new species waiting to be discovered. Biologists call this immense variety of living organisms biodiversity.
A species (plural = species) is a group of living organisms which have similar characteristics. The members of a species are capable of having offspring with other members of the same species. Roses produce new rose bushes. Cows produce baby cows. A rose could not produce a baby cow. Members of one species cannot breed with members of another species.
Although scientists have explored most of the continents on Earth and the number of the recently discovered species is small, little is known about what life is like in the more inaccessible areas of the world. The depths of the oceans, for example, are only just beginning to be explored scientifically; they may still hold some big surprises.
Some parts of the world are particularly rich in species. This is where scientists are most likely to find new ones. For example, the treetops of tropical rain forests and the warm waters around coral reefs are areas of intense concentration of a wide variety of species.
Some groups of organisms are not very well known because scientists have not taken the time to study them. These include mites, fungi and bacteria. Even among the well-known groups of animals, though, new species are being discovered. An average of two new species of bird are identified each year.
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