Indiana University researchers find Earth may be home to 1 trillion species

Jay Lennon, an associate professor, and Kenneth Locey, a postdoctoral researcher, in the IU Bloomington College of Arts and Sciences’ Department of Biology contacted IU Communications April 1 about an upcoming paper in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences that estimated the Earth could contain upwards of 1 trillion species, mostly microbes.


Jay Lennon

The number was found by applying mathematical laws to the most comprehensive list of known species ever compiled – a massive undertaking that required collecting information from more than 35,000 separate data sources on various forms of life, including animals, plants, fungus and microorganisms.

IU’s news release on the study was distributed May 2 to coincide with publication in PNAS. A version of the release also appeared on the National Science Foundation’s website and homepage banner following coordination with the NSF Geological Sciences Program, whose director provided a quote to the release. The release was posted under embargo to EurekAlert on April 27.

Media coverage of the research appeared in the following major media outlets:

The research was also reported in numerous news outlets focused on science and technology, including Cosmos Magazine, Discovery News, Futurism, GizMagInverseNature World News, Science Alert, Science Explorer Science World ReportThe Scientist, Sputnik News, Tech Insider and ZME Science. International coverage included The IndependentThe Daily Mail, International Business Times and India Today. The study was also reported by Maine News OnlineThe Oregonian, Fox59 and CBS4 Indianapolis.

On social media, the research appeared on the IFLScience Facebook page, which has over 24.5 million subscribers; Mashable’s twitter account, which has 7 million followers; and New York Times reporter Carl Zimmer’s twitter account, which has over 250,000 followers. Other Twitter users to share the news included official accounts from the Science Channel,  United Nations Environment ProgrammeNational Science FoundationNSF Biological Sciences Program, NSF Geological Sciences Program and the Rainforest Alliance.

Short videos with information about the study were also produced by the YouTube channels GeoBeatsBuzz60 and Futurism.



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