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Reptile Database Records More Than 10,000 Species to Help Conservation Efforts

First Posted: Aug 04, 2014 09:23 AM EDT
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The Reptile Database is a web-based catalogue that records reptile species. Now, scientists have announced that more than 10,000 reptile species have been recorded, which makes reptiles among the most diverse vertebrate groups in the world.

"Officially, we have logged 10,038 reptile species into the database, which is up from 9.052 that was reported in April," said Peter Uetz, founder, editor and curator of the Reptile Database, in a news release. "Previously, 10,000 was considered the landmark number because there are approximately 10,000 bird species. However, we can predict that reptiles will be more speciose, at least on paper, than birds very soon. Finally, reptiles will be the most speciose vertebrate group after fish."

Currently, scientists estimate that there are about 5,000 species of mammals and 7,000 species of amphibians. This means that reptiles easily outcompete these other groups of animals in terms of diversity.

So why does this wide diversity exist? It can be partially blamed on genetic analyses. While species look very similar on the outside, they can be genetically different. New tools have therefore given scientists the ability to classify and separate closely-related species.

This database isn't only a novelty, either. It also gives scientists a tool in order to track endangered species.

"Species discoveries continue unabatedly, but also ironically, as many species turn out to be endangered, as soon as they are discovered, given that many are restricted to very small ranges, such as mountain tops-including small mountains," said Uetz.

The database also gives scientists insight into the evolutionary history of reptiles. By compiling all of the known species and their traits, researchers are able to have a comprehensive group of species that they can then compare and see where they fit on the evolutionary tree.

Currently, the researchers are collecting even more species and adding to the database. This could lead to further insight into the group of reptiles as a whole.

The new findings were presented during the 2014 Joint Meeting of Ichthyologists and Herpetologists  in Chattanooga, Tennessee.

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