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Thousands of anthropods found in one rainforest

Showing the same spirit as the intrepid explorers of a Jules Verne novel, a real life group of scientists used all means possible to take an accurate count of anthropods and demonstrate the diversity found in one small patch of rainforest. They floated above the trees in helium balloons, trekked out at night to set lights to attract bugs, and used a variety of other methods to count as many species of insect as possible.

Yves Basset, an entomologist at the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute in Panama City, and his team worked in twelve plots, each approximately the size of a tennis court (0.48 hectare), in the San Lorenzo forest in Panama. They looked on the ground, in the treetops, during the day, and at night.

The final result may be one of the most complete counts every done, with 6,144 species identified. Further, in an article published this week in Science, they estimate that there are six million arthropod species globally, and that the loss of even one rainforest means almost incalculable loss of such diversity.

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