How Many Species of Insects and Other Terrestrial Arthropods Are There on Earth?

Annu Rev Entomol. 2018 Jan 7;63:31-45. doi: 10.1146/annurev-ento-020117-043348. Epub 2017 Sep 22.


In the last decade, new methods of estimating global species richness have been developed and existing ones improved through the use of more appropriate statistical tools and new data. Taking the mean of most of these new estimates indicates that globally there are approximately 1.5 million, 5.5 million, and 7 million species of beetles, insects, and terrestrial arthropods, respectively. Previous estimates of 30 million species or more based on the host specificity of insects to plants now seem extremely unlikely. With 1 million insect species named, this suggests that 80% remain to be discovered and that a greater focus should be placed on less-studied taxa such as many families of Coleoptera, Diptera, and Hymenoptera and on poorly sampled parts of the world. DNA tools have revealed many new species in taxonomically intractable groups, but unbiased studies of previously well-researched insect faunas indicate that 1-2% of species may be truly cryptic.

Keywords: cryptic diversity; global species richness; host specificity; insect diversity; undiscovered species.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animal Distribution
  • Animals
  • Biodiversity*
  • Earth, Planet
  • Insecta*
  • Mites
  • Statistics as Topic