A large collaborative project lasting ten years has potentially revealed 6,000 new marine species. Twenty-seven hundred scientists from many countries worked together on the Census of Marine Life.
Formal descriptions for about 1,200 of the new species have been completed. The census also resulted in the estimate of known marine species increasing from 230,000 to almost 250,000. Most of these life forms are microbial, up to 90 percent. The mass of this enormous microbial community was estimated to be 35 elephants multiplied by the number of humans on Earth.
Myriam Sibuet, one of the project leaders said, “Life astonished us everywhere we looked. In the deep sea we found luxuriant communities despite extreme conditions.The discoveries of new species and habitats both advanced science and inspired artists with their extraordinary beauty.”
DNA barcoding and microphone arrays helped make the census work more efficient. In Australian waters, a shrimp thought to have gone extinct 50 million years ago was found. Off the coast of Africa, remains of corrals 400 kilometers long were observed. They are part of one of the world’s longest reefs. Next to Chile, communities of microbes were noted on the sea floor which could equal the surface area of Greece. Other technologies used were remotely operated submersibles, acoustic tagging, sonar, nets, listening posts, and satellites.
To share information with the public about their marine research, the census leaders partnered with the Encylopedia of Life. As a result, 80,000 Web pages were created. Each page profiles a marine species.
Based on their data collection and analysis, the researchers have estimated there could be as many as 5,000 fish species in the oceans still undiscovered. It was also estimated that the number of species living in reef ecosystems could be between one million and two million. One example of a newly discovered species is the giant lobster weighing over eight pounds found off the coast of Madgascar. Another is an oyster than can live for over 100 years.
Records for hydrothermal vents were noted by researchers. The deepest was 5,000 meters, the hottest was 407 degrees Celsius (not Fahrenheit) nothernmost 73 degrees in the Arctic, 60 degrees, in the Antarctic.
Image Credit: Census of Marine Life