Attractive and "interesting" animals such as butterflies, birds and mammals have been studied in much more detail than lower orders of animals. Although such "interesting" species make up only a small proportion of the total number of species on the planet, the knowledge we have of them to a large extent determines the supposed diversity of a particular biotope as a whole. By concentrating on the humble terrestrial flatworm, biologists from the Zoological Museum at Amsterdam University (UvA) have discovered three new "hotspots" of biological diversity: New Zealand, Southeast Australia and Tasmania. The study formed part of the NWO’s Priority Programme on Biodiversity within Disturbed Ecosystems.
Human activity is causing the rapid extinction of plants and animals all over the world. This "biodiversity crisis" is considered to be one of the most pressing global problems. To save as many flora and fauna species as possible, biodiversity hotspots must first be identified. However, studies of biodiversity have hitherto taken insufficient account of the soil fauna and the lower animals, even though more than a million species of invertebrates such as worms, insects and molluscs are known. This is an enormous biodiversity when compared with only about 10,000 species of birds, 4500 species of mammals and 300,000 species of plants.
Source: Netherlands Organization For Scientific Research. May 1999.