How many species live on the Earth ?

(Five centuries ago, Guru Nanak wrote that there are 84 lakh – or 8.4 Million – Living Species on the Earth. This has been confirmed by results of a recent UN-sponsored Scientific Research Project)

By : (Dr) Surjit Singh Bhatti, Formerly, Professor and Head,

Dean (Sciences), Guru Nanak Dev University, Amritsar,India.

The UN’s Environment Program called “World Conservation Monitoring Centre” (UNEP-WCMC) and Microsoft Research Centre in Cambridge, UK, have completed a project with scientists from Dalhousie University in Canada and the US University of Hawaii, to find the number of species of living beings on our planet. Their conclusion is that the Earth is home to about 8.7 million species, with about 6.5 million species on land and about 2.2 million in oceans. However, they added that due to some factors related to Climate Changes, many of these living species will become extinct before they can be studied.

About 86% of the species found on land and 91% of those found in oceans, have not been identified as yet. Cataloguing all of them could take more than 1,000 years. The majority (about 76%) of these 8.7 million species are animals, with progressively smaller numbers of plants (17%), fungi (4%), single-celled organisms, algae, and other micro-organisms (3%). Scientists have cataloged only about 9% of the species discovered in oceans and about 14% of species now alive on land. Current extinction rates indicate that many of these unidentified species will cease to exist before they can be identified and recorded. In 1758, the Swedish botanist Carl Linnaeus had devised a system to classify the diversity of nature. Using this, only the catalog for some classes of living beings, such as mammals and birds, is nearly complete. What has been discovered so far are those living species that are easy to find and are conspicuous.

Approximate Distribution of Living Species on the Earth (Animals 76%, Plants 17%, Fungi 4%, Protozoa 2%, Bacteria 1% )

According to the estimate for animals, about 98% of Mammals (out of their 5600 species), 96% of Birds (out of total 10,500 species), 80% of Reptiles (out of 12,000 species) and 72% of Fish (out of total 45,000 species) have been discovered so far. Hardly 45% of Amphibians and 43% of Mollusca, like snails and oysters, (out of a total of about 200,000 species) have been found. The other species discovered till now are (31%) Crustaceans, like crabs, lobsters, and shrimps, out of an estimated 150,000 and (17%) Arachnids, like scorpions, spiders, and ticks, out of an estimated number of 600,000. Insect species are predicted to be about 5,000,000 but only 20% of these have been discovered in the last 250 years. These include ants, bees, beetles, butterflies, cockroaches, crickets and grasshoppers, among many others.

GURBANI, the spiritual verses enshrined in Sri Guru Granth Sahib (SGGS), composed by Sikh Gurus, and some Saints (during 1469 – 1604), has several Divine Hymns or Slokas, saying there are 84 Lakh (or 8.4 Million) living species.

(Raag Maajh – SGGS, Page -110)

( He, God, has created 84 Lakh or 8.4 Million of living beings )

These assertions indicate order of the number of species. The number (8.7 Million) estimated by recent research is very close to what had been predicted by Gurbani. If the uncertainty admitted by scientists in their estimates is taken into account, the two agree surprisingly well (within less than 4%). The number of species on Earth has been mentioned in many other hymns. These hymns, incidentally, also point to the concept of re-birth or re-incarnation, after human death. This belief is common also among some other Asian religions.

(In many in-carnations, one was or may become, a worm or an insect. In many others, one was or may become an elephant, a fish, a deer, a bird, a snake, an ox, or a horse.)

(Raag Gauree – SGGS, Page -176)

(In many in-carnations, one was or may become a rock or a mountain. Many times, one is aborted in the womb. Many of one’s lives were as trees. One wanders through 84 Lakh or 8.4 Million births). Note: One Million is equal to 10 Lakh.

2 Comments Add yours

  1. AS Gill says:

    A very complex matter. Good effort. Thanks.


  2. Jaspreet Bobbin says:

    Very nice article Veerji.

    Thank you for such informative article.


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