Explorers Inventory Hard-to-See Sea Life

2 August 2010

What Lives in the Sea?
Census of Marine Life Publishes Historic Roll Call of Species in 25 Key Ocean Areas


Representing the most comprehensive and authoritative answer yet to one of humanity’s most ancient questions -- “what lives in the sea?” -- Census of Marine Life scientists today released an inventory of species distribution and diversity in key global ocean areas.

Scientists combined information collected over centuries with data obtained during the decade-long Census to create a roll call of species in 25 biologically representative regions -- from the Antarctic through temperate and tropical seas to the Arctic.

Their papers help set a baseline for measuring changes that humanity and nature will cause. 

Published by the open access journal PLoS ONE, the landmark collection of papers and overview synthesis will help guide future decisions on exploration of still poorly-explored waters, especially the abyssal depths, and provides a baseline for still thinly-studied forms, especially small animals. 

Australian and Japanese waters, which each feature almost 33,000 forms of life that have earned the status of “species” (and thus a scientific name such as Carcharodon carcharias, a.k.a. the great white shark), are by far the most biodiverse.  The oceans off China, the Mediterranean Sea and the Gulf of Mexico round out the top five areas most diverse in known species.

In a prelude to the ultimate summary of the landmark, decade-long marine census, to be released Oct. 4 in London, national and regional committees of the Census compiled the inventory of known and new species in the 25 key marine regions.

Full press release (Word)
Full press release (PDF)
Media Preview of PLoS ONE Articles (Appendix 4)
Image Gallery
Video Gallery

Track the geographic locations of the Census at http://comlmaps.org/globe  



Explorers Inventory Hard-to-See Sea Life:
Tiny but Mighty Microbes,
Plankton, Larvae, Burrowers -- Keys to Earth’s
Food and Respiratory Systems


Microbial mat the size of Greece found on oxygen-starved South American seafloor;
Scientists puzzle out Neptune’s riotous diversity of tiny creatures;
“In no other ocean realm has discovery been as extensive”;
Explorers yet to find any lifeless place on Earth below 150°C;
Release of historic global ocean Census: October 4, 2010


Ocean explorers are puzzling out Nature’s purpose behind an astonishing variety of tiny ocean creatures like microbes and zooplankton animals – each perhaps a ticket-holder in life’s lottery, awaiting conditions that will allow it to prosper and dominate. 
The inventory and study of the hardest-to-see sea species -- tiny microbes, zooplankton, larvae and burrowers in the sea bed, which together underpin almost all other life on Earth -- is the focus of four of 14 field projects of the Census of Marine Life.  
Identifying species within these hard-to-see groups, where they are and in what numbers, and the environmental role of each, is critical for understanding the size, dynamics and stability of Earth’s food chain, carbon cycle and other planetary fundamentals.
At the other end of the hard-to-see scale: microbes form mats on the sea floor off the west coast of South America that explorers recently found.  The mats cover a surface comparable in size to Greece and rank among Earth’s largest masses of life.
The research will be showcased October 4 at ceremonies in London to conclude the Census and its historic decade of exploration, research, recording and logging of marine life past and present, with predictions of what will live in the ocean in the future.  The Census involves more than 2,000 scientists from 80+ nations -- one of the largest global scientific collaborations ever undertaken. 

Full press release (PDF)
Image Gallery
Video Gallery

Track the geographic locations of the Census of the Hard-to-See at http://comlmaps.org/globe