Estimating the number of mammal species

John was involved in a research project, recently published in Ecology and Evolution, that developed and tested a model to estimate the number of mammal species using taxonomic records.

In a study led by Molly Fisher, in collaboration with John Drake and John Gittleman, the group worked to modify and apply a model that used species description records to estimate how many and where mammal species remain to be described. Along with development and application of the model, John worked to develop a simulation, which generated scenarios similar to the real species description records, to test the new model against a previous model. They found that under more complex and realistic scenarios their model outperformed the original model in estimating the total species number.  When applying the new model to the real taxonomic data, roughly 5% (303 species) of the mammal species remain to be described.  By applying the model to species discovery records for individual biogeographic realms, the group found that the Afrotropics and Neotropics contain the greatest number of undescribed species.