Taxonomy, the description and classification of life's diversity, is a discipline that underpins all biological sciences. Current gaps in taxonomic knowledge and expertise restrict our ability to effectively conserve and manage biodiversity. Among vertebrates, amphibians are of particular concern; they are highly threatened yet poorly known. We found that resident expertise in amphibian taxonomy is concentrated in economically rich but relatively species-poor countries in North America and Europe. However, much expertise is exported; most experts work on species elsewhere, in biodiverse Asia or South America. Unexpectedly, age pyramids of taxonomists revealed healthy levels of participation among young researchers, though available expertise remains inadequate across most of the globe. Our results strongly suggest that many amphibian species are becoming extinct before they are described, and provide concrete support for the widespread calls to increase taxonomic expertise worldwide.
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Vol. 60 • No. 10