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Mammoth Project to Digitize the Tree of Life Could Uncover Thousands of New Species

• PopSci
“There are literally thousands of new species sitting in storage at museums,” says Quentin Wheeler, a renowned taxonomist and founder of the International Institute for Species Exploration at Arizona State University. Identifying these species isn’t just to satisfy curiosity; we need a clear understanding of species in order to best organize conservation efforts. Here’s the snag: To verify a new species, a taxonomist must examine the type specimens—the preserved representative samples of every known plant and animal—of each similar existing species to document the differences. Some animals must be compared with hundreds of specimens, and those might be anywhere in the world. Many are too fragile to ship. But Wheeler thinks he has a solution that could dramatically speed up the classification and identification of species. 

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