New Species – Predicting

music; ambience Madagascar Forest

To help locate undiscovered species of animals, scientists have developed a new way to predict where they might be found. I’m Jim Metzner, and this is the Pulse of the Planet.

“One of the approaches that I took to help to discover good areas, good candidate areas for finding new species was using satellite imagery and using computer models that can actually give us good predictions of where species will occur.”

Christopher Raxworthy is the associate curator of Herpetology at the American Museum of Natural History. He and his colleagues took the known localities of existing species of animals..

“..and we feed those into a computer which also is being fed information about what we call environmental layers, for example, vegetation and climate and geology, any environmental factor that we think might influence where species occur. What the computer does is it takes this data and goes through a process of distribution modeling to predict where species do and do not occur. Now what I found in the case of Madagascar was that when we got these results back, they looked great for most species, but in some species the computer was making these crazy predictions where for example a species would be on the other side of the island from where it occurred, or in a completely isolated region, Initially I was thinking this was some sort of strange error. But what we found is that when you actually go into those areas, although those species you are modeling doesn’t occur in that area, you actually find those isolated strange areas that the computer predicted actually include new species. Now what it’s really telling us is that for remote regions of, for example, Madagascar, we can actually use distribution modeling of known species to tell us unusual areas where we expect the climatic conditions are going to be very good for other species to have adapted and evolved into.”

We’ll hear about finding new species in future programs. Pulse of the Planet is made possible by the National Science Foundation.

New Species - Predicting

To help locate undiscovered species of animals, scientists have developed a new way to predict where they might be found.
Air Date:09/13/2005
Scientist:
Transcript:


music; ambience Madagascar Forest

To help locate undiscovered species of animals, scientists have developed a new way to predict where they might be found. I'm Jim Metzner, and this is the Pulse of the Planet.

"One of the approaches that I took to help to discover good areas, good candidate areas for finding new species was using satellite imagery and using computer models that can actually give us good predictions of where species will occur."

Christopher Raxworthy is the associate curator of Herpetology at the American Museum of Natural History. He and his colleagues took the known localities of existing species of animals..

"..and we feed those into a computer which also is being fed information about what we call environmental layers, for example, vegetation and climate and geology, any environmental factor that we think might influence where species occur. What the computer does is it takes this data and goes through a process of distribution modeling to predict where species do and do not occur. Now what I found in the case of Madagascar was that when we got these results back, they looked great for most species, but in some species the computer was making these crazy predictions where for example a species would be on the other side of the island from where it occurred, or in a completely isolated region, Initially I was thinking this was some sort of strange error. But what we found is that when you actually go into those areas, although those species you are modeling doesn't occur in that area, you actually find those isolated strange areas that the computer predicted actually include new species. Now what it's really telling us is that for remote regions of, for example, Madagascar, we can actually use distribution modeling of known species to tell us unusual areas where we expect the climatic conditions are going to be very good for other species to have adapted and evolved into."

We'll hear about finding new species in future programs. Pulse of the Planet is made possible by the National Science Foundation.