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Australian Biological Resources Study

Numbers of Living Species in Australia and the World

A.D.Chapman
Australian Biodiversity Information Services, Toowoomba, Australia
A Report for the Department of the Environment and Heritage, September 2005
ISBN (printed) 978 0 642 56849 6
ISBN (online) 978 0 642 56850 2

Online html version with updates (April 2007)


Executive Summary

Many of the figures supplied in this report are estimates only. Details of how the estimates were arrived at can be seen in the bulk of the paper. Estimates for total world species in many of the groups are difficult or impossible to find. Rather than make guestimates, ‘unknown’ is inserted where no information could be obtained. Estimates of total species in Australia were also often not easy to find, as were estimates of percentage endemism for many of the invertebrate groups and non plant and animal phyla.

Estimates for the total number of species in the world vary from 5 million to over 50 million (May 1998). I have settled on a figure of between 8 and 9 million with about 600 000–700 000 for Australia.

Vertebrates

Brusca and Brusca (2003) estimated that there were 49 693 published vertebrates for the world, while Groombridge and Jenkins (2002) gave an estimate of 52 000 published vertebrate species and an estimate of about 55 000 species in total. Adding up the individual estimates as documented in this report, a much higher figure of 60 979 has been determined for published species. The area of most uncertainty is within the fishes.

In this report, the estimate of total species for the world has been calculated by adding estimates where cited to published numbers and rounding to the nearest 1 000.

Taxon World Described Australia Described Australia Described % of World Described Estimate World Estimate Australia World Threatened7 World Threatened % Australia Threatened8 Australia Threatened % Australia Threatened % of World Threatened Australia % Endemic
Mammals 5 416 378 7.0% unknown ~378 1 101 20% 75 20% 6.8% 83%
Birds 9 917 828 8.4% ~10 000 ~828 1 213 12% 65 8% 5.3% 45%
Reptiles 8 300 869 10.5% ~10 000 ~900 304 4% 42 5% 13.8% 89%
Amphibia 5 743 219 3.8% ~7 500 ~220 1 770 31% 30 14% 1.7% 93%
Fishes 28 900 4 500 15.6% ~35 000 ~5 250 800 3% 35 1% 4.4% 24%
Agnatha 114 5 4.4% unknown ~10 0 0 40%
Cephalochordata 23 8 34.8% unknown ~8 0 0 50%
Tunicata 2 566 754 29.4% unknown ~850 0 0 25–30%
TOTAL 60 979 7 561 12.4 ~71 000 ~8 444 5 188 8.5% 247 3.3% 4.8% 39%
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Invertebrates

Taxon World Described Australia Described Australia Described % of World Described Estimate World Estimate Australia World Threatened9 World Threatened % Australia Threatened Australia Threatened %10 Australia Threatened % of World Threatened Australia % Endemic
Hemichordata 106 17 16.0% unknown 22 0 0 25–30%
Echinodermata 7 000 1 165 16.6% ~14 000 ~1 406 0 0 31%
Insecta 950 000 ~80 000 8.4% ~4 000 000 ~95 000–204 74311 559 0.06% 4 0.01% 0.7% unknown
Arachnida 98 000 5 711 6.0% 166 000–600 000 ~27 960 0 0 unknown
Myriapoda 12 200 405 3.3% >85 000 ~2 800 0 0 unknown
Crustacea 40 000 7 130 17.8% 150 000 ~9 500 429 1.1% 7 0.1% 1.6% unknown
Onychophora 165 71 43.0% 220 ~80 0 0 unknown12
Mollusca 70 000 ~8 700 12.4% 120 000 ~12 250 974 1.4% 213 0.02% 0.2% 90%
Annelida 15 000 2 300 15.3% 25 000–30 000 ~4 230 0 1 0.04% 67%
Nematoda <25 000 ~2 060 8% ~500 000 ~30 000 0 0 unknown
Acanthocephala 1 000 56 5.6% ~1 600 ~160 0 0 unknown
Platyhelminthes 20 000 1 593 8.0% ~80 000 ~10 000 0 0 unknown
Cnidaria 9 000 1 705 18.9% unknown ~2 200 0 0 unknown
Porifera 5 500 1 416 25.7% ~18 000 ~3 500 0 0 56%
Others 10 573 2 213 20.9% ~20 000 ~5 015 30 0.03% 0 0% unknown
TOTAL (rounded) 1 263 700 114 600 9.1% ~5 500 000 ~250 00014 1 992 0.17% 14 0.01% 0.7% unknown
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Plants

Taxon World Described Australia Described Australia Described % of World Described Estimate World Estimate Australia World Threatened15 World Threatened % Australia Threatened16 Australia Threatened % Australia Threatened % of World Threatened Australia % Endemic
Bryophyta 16 600 1 852 11.1% ~22 000 ~2 200 80 0.5% 1 0.05% 1.2% 25%
Vascular Plants 272 400 18 140 6.7% ~422 000 ~20 500 8 241 3% 1 194 7.0% 14.5% 90%
   Ferns and allies (12 838) (446) (3.5%) (~15 000) (~500) (140) (1%) (35) (7.8%) (25%) (40%)
   Gymnosperms (~930) (113) (12.2%) (~1 000) (113) (305) (32%) (20) (17.7%) (6.5%) (96%)
   Magnoliophyta (258 650) (17 580) (6.8%) (~320 000) (19 000–21 000) (7 796) (3%) (1 139) (6.6%) (14.6%) (91%)
TOTAL 289 000 ~20 000 6.9% ~444 000 23 000 8 321 2.9% 1 195 6.0% 14.4% 84%
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Others

Taxon World Described Australia Described Australia Described % of World Described Estimate World Estimate Australia World Threatened17 World Threatened % Australia Threatened18 Australian Threatened % Australia Threatened % of World Threatened Australia % Endemic
Lichens 17 000 3 227 19.0% ~25 000 ~5 000 2 0.01% 0 0 0 34%
Fungi 72 000 5 672+ 7.8% 1 500 000 160 000–250 000 0 0 90%
Bacteria 5 422 ~40 0.7% 400 000–1 000 000 40 000 0 0 unknown
Cyanophyta 2 371 ~50 1.7% unknown 270 0 0 unknown
Algae ~35 000 ~10 000 28.5% 200 000 12 000+ 0 1 0.01% unknown
Viruses ~2 000 ~400 25% 400 000 unknown 0 0 unknown
Protoctista 42 540 ~10 000 23.5% <600 000 ~65 000 0 0 unknown
TOTAL ~176 000 ~30 000 17% 3–4 million 300 000–400 000 2 0.001% 1 0.003% 0.5% unknown
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All Species

Taxon World Described Australia Described Australia Described % of World Described Estimate World Estimate Australia World Threatened19 World Threatened % Australia Threatened20 Australian Threatened % Australia Threatened % of World Threatened Australia % Endemic
Vertebrates 60 979 7 558 12.4% ~71 000 ~8 444 5 188 8.5% 365 4.8% 7.0% 39%
Invertebrates 1 261 000 114 600 9.1% 5 500 000 250 000 1 992 0.16% 13 0.001% 0.7% unknown
Plants 289 000 20 000 6.9% ~444 000 23 000 8 321 2.9% 1 195 6.0% 14.4% 84%
Others ~176 000 ~30 000 17% 3–4 million 300 000–400 000 2 0.001% 1 0.003% unknown
GRAND TOTAL 1 786 000 172 200 9.6% 8–9 million 580 000–680 000 15 503 1% 1 574 0.9% 10% unknown
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