Multiple New Marine Species Discovred During Census Of Marine Life

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Posted by on December 19, 2006 at 11:28:56:

A ten year initiative started in 2000 to bring together over 2,000 scientists from 70 nations to assess and document the “diversity, distribution, and abundance” of marine organisms in the world’s oceans. The “Census for Marine Life” analyzes these criteria for marine life in the past and present, as well as attempts to predict what we will encounter in the future. The Census began due to funding from The Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, but since then roughly 350 programs, organizations, government agencies, and foundations have supported and collaborated with the project. 2006-2008 marks a period of intense field work to gain better understanding of what is currently in our oceans. Scientists hope to analyze and synthesize all of the data collected in 2009 and complete the Census in 2010 with published results.

Scientists throughout the globe are discovering a multitude of new species during field work expeditions. New species range from a deep sea shrimp that can tolerate the highest temperatures ever recorded on Earth, to a crab covered in furry hair, to at least thirty-one new species of copepods. Scientists estimate that they witnessed more than 20,000 different varieties of bacteria in a single liter of sea water. Fred Grassle, the Chair of the Census Scientific Steering Committee, commented, “Each Census expedition reveals new marvels of the ocean and with the return of each vessel it is increasingly clear that many more discoveries await marine explorers for years to come.”

The project is additionally combing through various historical documents to determine what species existed on the planet prior to the 21st century. Looking through historic records, scientists have been amazed at the species abundance and diversity that once lived in nearshore habitats. Census historians discovered that roughly 65% of seagrass and wetland habitats have been eliminated and that a 10-1,000 fold increase in invasive species has occurred.

The Census Ocean Biogeographic Information System publishes over 140 global databases. In addition, the Census is producing an on-line library with more than 10 million distribution records of over 78,000 species. The Census also has a complementary library of short DNA sequences. More information regarding the Census of Marine Life can be obtained at www.comlsecretariat.org.

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