Least studied taxa, where do we need research?

Recently I was reading about the coastal dune complex in my local area, which turns out to be very interesting geologically, and for plant and animal life. There are freshwater Dune Lakes and creeks flowing out to the ocean with some brackish plants of various degrees, as well as salt and freshwater marsh, and steelhead. 26 Federal and State threatened or endangered species exist here. Many species have been studied, such as the Western Snowy Plover and Steelhead. But there have been less than 80 studies ever concerning invertebrates.

The possible insects ,including butterflies are unknown. The lists of freshwater micro invertebrates and snails are incomplete.

I wonder in general, do we need more insect and saltmarsh invertebrate scientists? In your opinion, what life on earth could be studied more? I would like to see the local dune lake, creek, freshwater marsh, saltwater marsh, mudflats, and lagoon invertebrates get more attention.


Invertebrates, nonvascular plants, fungi, “protists” and prokaryotes.


Just as an example, recently floristic and vegetational researches had been somehow abandoned in certain areas due to the low “impact factor” of papers dealing with such subjects. A possible drawback of a similar phenomen could be the lack of knowledge of the plants and the vegetation that characterize more or less large areas.
You could search on scholar (or on databases, if they exist) to see if there are papers dealing with your place of interest and decide if it could be worth starting a new research there.


Yes, thanks, I did do a little searching, but I didn’t go through everything yet. Google Scholar is good, and I can also use JSTOR. But very good idea to list what has been mentioned. I found one good overall article:


It all started with a snail shell I found behind the fore dunes, in a slightly halophilic hollow that has Marsh Jaumea. I posted it, and the iNaturalist people thought it to be a freshwater snail. I have not found any mention of these yet in what I’ve read about the Nipomo Dunes aka Guadalupe-Nipomo Dunes.

Snail observation:

I will second that. Invertebrate life often get overlooked as being unimportant or too small. Part of that is how to find them, the criteria for identification, and how to photograph them. Right now, I identify a lot of moths - they are collectible, and have a lot of identification resources. If you asked me to identify all invertebrates in a wetland, I would be at a loss.


I guess it also depends on what YOU want to research there and which opportunities you have, e.g. studying birds is relatively easier than identifing 1-cell organisms. Medium-large invertebrates are quite easy to find and collect and most have keys for identification, micro-moths and other small insects are harder not only because of their size but because they’re less studied. Choose the group and look up if anyone has experience with it (not for local creeks, but e.g. for those a couple kms away, biota won’t be the same, but it will have many similarities).
And it’s interesting how well are plants studied in the area? Maybe some mapping of individuals could open a whole new level of understanding of it. Also sounds like a pretty good scientific research can be done.

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There’s tons to be done with fungi. There’s still new and undescribed species being found even in well-researched areas like California, and so many more in less travelled parts of the world. And then when you factor in the limited range of some of them (there’s one in Australia I read about that has only ever been found on a single tree stump) you can get an idea of the amount of diversity that’s being overlooked.

But I wonder how many species in all taxa are like that - super limited range, and haven’t been discovered yet because the right botanist/entomologist/mycologist hasn’t stumbled over that particular rock pile at the right time of year.


I’m not so much interested in what I want to study but what is under-studied. The freshwater lakes among these dunes, they’re actually under threat of development. So I’m trying to look into how well they’ve been studied… from what I understand the invertebrates haven’t been studied very well.

But for this post I am asking here what people think is least studied in the world in general.

It’s hard to say for world in general, birds are among the best-studied groups, but in some places they’re not that well-studied and many aspects are not known (e.g. my graduate work is about Iduna caligata nesting and there’re only a few studies of it, and statistics data is incomplete). There’re many enthusiastic enthomologists, many interested in micro-scpecies, but you can imagine they can’t be everywhere and study every corner of the world. Even big species, just this week I read about dipterologist wh studied hoverflies for 20 years and just was walking down the street of his hometown and caught & described new hoverfly species (not a small insect).
Overall first commenter is right, everything small and hard to see + almost everything in hard to get places.


Сложный вопрос. В основном к плохо изученным таксоном относятся те, определение которых невозможно в естественных условиях или сильно затруднено. Так же это могут быть непопулярные, в силу разных причин, таксоны. Это могут быть организмы, которые сложно найти, в силу мелких размеров или особенностей жизни. Плюс, как ни парадоксально, плохо изученными могут быть широко распространённые обычные виды в силу своей обычности не представляющие интереса для учёных.

Google translate.
Complex issue. Basically, poorly studied taxa include those whose definition is impossible in vivo or very difficult. It can also be unpopular, for various reasons, taxa. These can be organisms that are difficult to find, due to their small size or characteristics of life. Plus, paradoxically, poorly studied can be widespread common species, because of their usual nature, are not of interest to scientists.


Marine Invertebrate Species! Aside from nudibranchs there are massive gaps in the underwater Identifier pool. If I upload a bird 15people will have confirmed the ID within 15minutes but nobody is prepared to agree to “this is a sponge”.

Hard corals are, well, hard to ID. There simply aren’t enough people in the world with a full set of Veron who are prepared to spend their days putting things into family (let alone genus) and 90% of marine images aren’t close enough for distinguishing features to be identified.

Ascidians can only be 100% identified by looking at their gonads down a microscope.

And those are just the big things.


One suite of habitats that includes small and hard to see species and which can be difficult to get to are underground habitats, such as within talus, caves and other subterranean habitats. There are still opportunities in these habitats to document undescribed species. However, one limitation in furthering the research and knowledge of the biodiversity of these habitats would likely be a shortage of taxonomists who would have the expertise to describe and publish new species. You can google ‘taxonomic impediment’ to get a sense of the issue.


Well in tropical areas pretty much anything is understudied. This pretty ichneumonid got its funny name in 2016, about a year after i made the photo. … When it got its name, that was the moment I realized that it was not known to science, when i saw it. :D.


Sorry folks, but it is none of the above.

What it is in in how different organisms co-exist and mutually work to develop and enhance a biosphere.

Knowing what is in a place is nice, but to conserve it, you need to understand its place in the environment.

So I guess that means my answer is all of them ???


In terms of taxa, I can think of a few generalized answers for this, all pretty much summarizing previous responses:

  • taxa requiring subtle or minute detail or special equipment to identify. Some groups particularly rich in such taxa were already mentioned:
  • Taxa requiring the most time, effort, and money to access. Just have to look at any random map of observations, and see how many of them closely follow established roads, trails, and human population centers. (Not implying any value judgment here, just noting fact patterns.)

  • Anything you have suddenly realized you have never noticed or paid attention to before, or actively avoided – you are likely not alone!


These are all very good points. As far as my area, I found a project someone started, so that helps. - https://www.inaturalist.org/projects/oceano-dunes-svra-pismo-state-beach-inventory-9b82e508-4ec0-46ba-9282-123f089516a4

I already learned about an interesting moth, only described in 1972, but seen by iNaturalist observers - https://www.inaturalist.org/observations/1805867

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Has the ID been published? If so could you provide a link? It’s not my group, but I know how to read a taxonomic description!

Hi Ian … that would be great! Thanks!
picture and story of name

It’s only one genus, but xenohyla. It’s the only tree frog that is known to consume fruit for a significant part of its diet but there’s scarcely any information on the internet. There’s so many questions such as how it recognizes a non moving item as a food source, how it is able to digest, how it evolved, and more.