Numbers of Living Species in Australia and the World

2nd edition

A.D.Chapman
Australian Biodiversity Information Services, Toowoomba, Australia
A Report for the Australian Biological Resources Study September 2009
ISBN (printed) 978 0 642 56860 1 OUT OF PRINT
ISBN (online) 978 0 642 56861 8

Executive Summary

Numbers of Living Species in Australia and the World was first published in 2006. It was a collation of information from taxonomic literature, online resources and previous compilations, augmented by discussions with systematists. It is updated and revised in this new edition, taking into account newly published species, and refined estimates and corrections, again with considerable input from the taxonomic community. Insects are subdivided further than before, with separate figures being given for the component orders, and the algae and fungi are rearranged in line with more recent classifications.

The total number of accepted described species in the world is estimated to be close to 1 900 000, well above the 1 786 000 given in 2006. Worldwide, about 18 000 new species are being described each year and for the year 2007, 75% of these were invertebrates, 11% vascular plants and nearly 7% vertebrates.

For Australia a figure of 147 579 accepted described species is now determined, below the 2006 figure of 172 200, and the estimate of the number of species overall is 566 398. The reduction in numbers is due in large part to refinement of the estimates of numbers of insects, and feedback on the earlier edition of this report which led to more extensive collaboration to develop revised estimates. In a coarse breakdown of these figures, the estimates for Australia are 8 128 accepted described chordate species, 98 703 invertebrates, 24 716 plants (including plant algae and bryophytes), 11 846 fungi and around 4 186 in other groups. These figures include new records and newly described species for Australia for the past three years, among them approximately 1 184 vascular plants, 48 reptiles, 8 frogs and 8 mammals, 904 arachnids, 148 myriapods and 60 sponges. Endemism is high in some groups. For example, 41.3% of the chordates are endemic (including 87% of mammals, 45% of birds, 93% of reptiles, 94% of frogs) and some 92% of the vascular plants.

Nationally, the number of Australian species under threat are 246 chordates (3% of chordate species, including 20% of mammals and 14% of amphibians), 1 260 vascular plants (6.5%), 32 invertebrates, two algae and one bryophyte.

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Chordates

Brusca and Brusca (2003) estimated that there are 49 693 published and accepted vertebrate species for the world, whereas Groombridge and Jenkins (2002) gave an estimate of 52 000 accepted vertebrate species and an estimate of about 55 000 chordate species in total. Adding up the individual estimates documented in the previous report provided a much higher figure of 60 979 published chordate species (Chapman 2006). This report has again increased that figure, to 64 791—an increase of about 6.2%. The group with the greatest increase was the fishes, but all groups have had new species published since the previous report. The number of published species in Australia has increased from 7 561 to ~8 128 (an increase of 7.5%) again with most of the increase in the number of fish species. It is estimated that just over 40% of Australian chordate species are endemic.

Chordates
Taxon World Described/
Accepted
  Australia Described/
Accepted
  Australia Percentage   Estimate World   Estimate Australia   World Threatened
5
  World Threatened
Percentage
  Australia Threatened
6
  Australia Threatened
Percentage
  % of World’s Threatened   Percentage Endemic
Mammals 5 487   386   7.0%   ~5 500   ~390   1 141   20.8%   78   20.2%   6.8%   87%
Birds 9 990   828   8.3%   >10 000   ~900   1 222   12.2%   50   6.0%   4.1%   45%
Reptiles 8 734   917   10.5%   ~10 000   ~950   423   4.8%   46   5.0%   10.9%   93%
Amphibia 6 515   227   3.5%   ~15 000   ~230   1 905   29.2%   31   13.7%   1.6%   94%
Fishes 31 153   ~5 000   16.0%   ~40 000   ~5 750   1 275   4.1%   41   0.8%   3.2%   24%
Agnatha 116   5   4.3%   unknown   ~10   0   0%   0   0%     60%
Cephalochordata 33   8   24.2%   unknown   ~8   0   0%   0   0%     50%
Tunicata 2 760   757   27.4%   unknown   ~850   0     0       50%
TOTAL (2005) 60 979   7 561   12.4%   ~71 000   ~8 444   5 188   8.5%   247   3.3%   4.8%   39%
TOTAL (2009) 64 788   ~8 128   12.5%   ~80 500   ~9 088   5 966   9.2%   246   3.0%   4.1%   41.3%

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Invertebrates

The number of published, accepted invertebrate species in the world has increased since the previous report to 1 359 367—largely due to an increase in the number of insects. In this report I have been able to report on the numbers of insects by Order and this has allowed for a more accurate estimate for the total number of species. By contrast, the estimate for the total number of published insect species in Australia has decreased from approximately 80 000 to 62 000. The estimates for the total numbers of species, however, has altered very little. Estimates for endemism have now been supplied for many more groups, but an overall estimate is still not possible due to the unknowns in most of the larger groups, including the spiders, nematodes and platyhelminths.

Note: Where a range is given in number of species for a group the higher figure of the range is used in this table.

Invertebrates
Taxon World Described/
Accepted
  Australia Described/
Accepted
  Australia Percentage   Estimate World   Estimate Australia   World Threatened
7
  World Threatened Percentage   Australia Threatened   Australia Threatened
Percentage
  % of World’s Threatened   Percentage Endemic
Hemichordata 108   17   15.7%   ~110   22   0     0       ~25%
Echinodermata 7 003   1 475   21.1%   ~14 000   ~2 000   0     0       31%
Insecta ~1 000 000   ~62 000   6.2%   ~5 000 000   ~205 000   626   0.06%   8   0.01%   1.2%   ~70%
Arachnida 102 248   6 615   6.5%   ~600 000   31 338   18   0.02%   0     0%   unknown
Pycnogonida 1 340   215   16.0%   unknown   unknown   0     0       ~50%
Myriapoda 16 072   553   3.4%   ~90 000   ~3 100   15   0.1%   0     0%   86%
Crustacea 47 000   7 266   15.5%   150 000   ~9 500   606   1.3%   9   0.1%   1.5%   unknown
Onychophora 165   71   43.0%   ~220   ~80   9   5.5%   0       100%
Hexapoda 9 048   338   3.7%   52 000   ~2 070   0     0       ~17.6%
Mollusca ~85 000   ~8 700   10.2%   ~200 000   ~12 250   978   1.2%   14   0.2%   1.4%   38%
Annelida 16 763   2 192   13.1%   ~30 000   ~4 230   6   0.04%   1   0.05%   16.7%   67%
Nematoda   ~2 060   8.2%   ~500 000   ~30 000   0     0       unknown
Acanthocephala 1 150   56   4.9%   ~1 500   ~160   0     0       unknown
Platyhelminthes 20 000   1 593   8%   (~80 000)   ~10 000   0     0       unknown
Cnidaria 9 795   1 705   17.4%   unknown   ~2 200   236   2.4%   0       unknown
Porifera ~6 000   1 476   24.6%   ~18 000   ~3 500   0     0       56%
Others 12 673   ~2 371   18.7%   ~20 000   ~5 015   30   0.2%   0     0%   unknown
TOTAL (2005) 1 263 600   114 600   9.1%   ~5 500 000   ~250 0008   1 992   0.17%   14   0.01%   0.7%   unknown
TOTAL (2009) ~1 359 365   ~98 703   7.3%   ~6 755 830   ~320 465   2 524   0.2%   32   0.04%   1.3%   unknown

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Plants

In this report, I have included plant algae, including the green algae, red algae and glaucophytes, making a direct comparison with the previous report impossible, however I have added a comparison for plants excluding the algae. Estimates for published species of the Magnoliophyta for the world have increased by about 10 000 since the previous edition, but the estimate for the total number of species has dropped considerably from ~422 000 to ~352 000 in line with recent research.

Plants
Taxon World Described/
Accepted
  Australia Described/ Accepted   Australia Percentage   Estimate World   Estimate Australia   World Threatened
9
  World Threatened Percentage   Australia Threatened   Australia Threatened
Percentage
  % of World’s Threatened   Percentage Endemic
Bryophyta 16 236   1 847   11.4%   ~22 750   ~2 200   82   0.4%   1   0.05%   1.2%   25%
Algae (Plant) 12 272   ~3 545   ~29%   unknown   ~3 000   9   0.07%   2   0.06%   22%   unknown
Vascular Plants 281 621   19 324   6.9%   ~368 050   ~21 645   8 366   3.0%   1 260   6.5%   15%   91.8%
Ferns and allies
(~12 000)   (498)   (4.2%)   (~15 000)   (~525)   (139)   (1.2%)   (41)   (8.2%)   (29.5%)   (33.8%)
Gymnosperms
(~1 021)   (120)   (11.7%)   (~1 050)   (~120)   (323)   (31.6%)   (17)   (14.2%)   (5.3%)   (96%)
Magnoliophyta
(~268 600)   (18 706)10   (7.0%)   (~352 000)   (~21 000)   (7 904)   (2.9%)   (1 202)   (6.4%)   (15.2%)   (93.25%)
TOTAL 2009 ~310 129   ~24 716   7.9%   ~390 800   26 845   8 457   2.7%   1 263   5.1%   14.9%   ~86%
 
TOTAL 2005 excl. Algae (Plant) 289 000   ~20 000   6.9%   ~444 000   23 000   8 321   2.9%   1 195   6.0%   14.4%   84%
TOTAL 2009 excl. Algae (Plant) 297 857   21 171   7.1%   ~390 800   23 845   8 448   2.8%   1 261   5.9%   14.9%   86%

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Fungi

In the previous report, lichens were included as a separate group to the fungi. In this edition the lichens (or more correctly lichen-forming fungi) have been included under the fungi, although the numbers for lichens are included in the table in brackets. A number of groups previously regarded as fungi but which are now regarded as belonging to either Chromista or Protoctista have been excluded from the fungi and included under those groups respectively—in the previous report they were included in the fungi.

Fungi
Taxon World Described/
Accepted
  Australia Described/
Accepted
  Australia Percentage   Estimate World   Estimate Australia   World Threatened
11
  World Threatened Percentage   Australia Threatened   Australia Threatened
Percentage
  % of World’s Threatened   Percentage Endemic
Fungi 98 998   11 846   11.9%   1 500 000   50 000   3   >0%   0   0%   0%   unknown
Lichens
(17 000)   (3 495)   (20.6%)   (~25 000)   (~4 500)   (2)   (0.01%)   (0)   0%   0%   (34%)
TOTAL 2009 98 998   11 846   11.9%   1 500 000   50 000   3   >0%   0   0%   0%   unknown

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Others

This group includes mainly single-celled, heterotrophic, eukaryotic organisms. It includes many species that were previously thought to be fungi or algae, but which are now regarded as belonging to Chromista or Protoctista. In the previous report, fungi and lichens were included within this category, but have now been transferred to a separate section. Algae were also included here, but have now been included under plants except for those species more correctly regarded as belonging to the Chromista, Protoctista or Cyanophyta, which are included here under those groups respectively.

Others
Taxon World Described/
Accepted
  Australia Described/
Accepted
  Australia Percentage   Estimate World   Estimate Australia   World Threatened
12
  World Threatened Percentage   Australia Threatened
13
  Australia Threatened
Percentage
  % of World’s Threatened   Percentage Endemic
Prokaryota 7 643   ~40   0.5%   ~1 000 000   40 000   0     0       unknown
Cyanophyta 2 664   270   10%   unknown   ~500   0     0       unknown
Chromista 25 044   2 130   8.5%   ~200 500   >15 000   6   0.02%   0   0%   0%   unknown
Viruses 2 085   ~400   ~19.2%   400 000   unknown   0     0       ~50%
Protoctista ~28 871   >1 346   4.7%   >1 000 000   ~65 000   0     0       unknown
TOTAL 2009 ~66 307   >4 186   6.2%   ~2 600 500   (~160 000)   6   0.01%   0   0%   0%   unknown

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All Species

All Species
Taxon World Described/
Accepted
  Australia Described/
Accepted
  Australia Percentage   Estimate World   Estimate Australia   World Threatened
14
  World Threatened Percentage   Australia Threatened
15
  Australia Threatened
Percentage
  % of World’s Threatened   Percentage Endemic
Chordates 64 788   ~8 128   12.5%   ~80 500   ~9 088   5 966   9.2%   246   3.0%   4.1%   41.3%
Invertebrates 1 359 365   98 703   7.3%   ~6 755 830   ~320 465   2 524   0.2%   32   0.04%   1.3%   unknown
Plants 310 129   24 71616   7.9%   ~390 800   26 845   8 457   2.7%   1 263   5.1%   14.9%   86%
Fungi 98 998   11 846   11.9%   1 500 000   50 000   3   >0%   0   0%   0%   unknown
Others ~66 307   >4 186   6.2%   2 600 500   ~160 000   6   0.01%   0   0%   0%   unknown
TOTAL 2009 1 899 587   147 579   7.8%   ~11 327 630   ~566 398   16 956   0.9%   1 541   1.1%   9.1%   unknown

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