A new species of ant has been discovered on the Spanish island of Mallorca. But it is already on the verge of extinction.

Lasius balearicus is the first ant known to be endemic to any of the Balearic islands in the Mediterranean.

But there are not many of them, they are confined to a small area, and have low genetic diversity.

As a result, their discoverer Gerard Talavera of the Institute of Evolutionary Biology in Barcelona, Spain, thinks the species has a "low probability" for survival.

Climate change is also a threat, as the ants are not well equipped to deal with dramatic changes to their habitat. Talavera's team say the find represents a unique chance to observe "real-time climate-based biodiversity loss".

Talavera and his colleagues analysed the ant's age and evolutionary tree. They found that it diverged from its closest relatives about 1.51 million years ago.

Several traits make it unique such as its distinct colour and shape and its unusually high mountain home.

We hardly knew you

Talavera's team are among the many scientists who fear that lots of species will go extinct before they are even discovered.

"This case illustrates that a fraction of biodiversity remains unexplored even within Europe, arguably the best-studied region of the planet, and that the available time-window for us to study and protect it may be in some instances notably narrow," they write.

Not everyone agrees it is as dire as that. Last year, another group of ecologists argued that all the as-yet unknown species could be named this century. More amateur taxonomists would help.

Monitoring the ants' nests could be key to helping L. balearicus survive. But for now its future remains uncertain.