Census of Marine Zooplankton (CMarZ)

The Census of Marine Zooplankton (CMarZ) was a global, taxonomically comprehensive biodiversity assessment of animal plankton, including ~6,800 described species in fifteen phyla.

Ann Bucklin
Shuhei Nishida
Sigrid Schiel

Project Leaders:

Ann Bucklin, Ph.D., Marine Sciences and Technology Center, University of Connecticut, USA

Prof. Shuhei Nishida, Ph.D., Ocean Research Institute, University of Tokyo, Japan

Sigrid Schiel, Ph.D., Comparative Ecosystem Research, Alfred Wegener Institute for Polar and Marine Research, Bremerhaven, Germany

Visit the CMarZ website.

The CMarZ goal was to produce a global assessment of holozooplankton species diversity, biomass, biogeographic distribution, and genetic diversity, focusing on the ~7,000 described species of animals that drift with ocean currents throughout their lives. CMarZ carried out a comprehensive biodiversity survey, focused on the deep sea, under-sampled regions, and biodiversity hotspots, that used an integrated morphological and molecular (DNA barcodes) approach to analysis and assessment. CMarZ technology advances included deep-sea (to 5,000 m) sampling and DNA barcoding at sea. CMarZ trained >250 students in zooplankton taxonomy and organized > 350 Education & Outreach events attended by >1,400 participants. CMarZ legacies include new baseline for detection of climate change; DNA technologies for rapid assessment of zooplankton species diversity for ocean observation and management. The CMarZ database contains species-level, specimen-based, geo-referenced entries; data and information are openly accessible via the CMarZ, CMarZ-Asia and PANGAEA websites, as well as the Ocean Biogeographical Information System (OBIS).

Sampling zooplankton in many ocean regions was accomplished during the first years of the project by coordinating with ongoing, planned, and proposed programs, surveys, and initiatives. CMarZ also made use of existing data and archived zooplankton collections. The global survey design was optimized using theoretical and numerical models in collaboration with the Census Future of Marine Animal Populations project. Sampling systems included traditional nets and trawls, remote detection, optical sensors, and integrated sensor systems deployed on towed, remotely-operated, or autonomous vehicles and submersibles. New sampling methodologies were needed to collect and study rare and fragile organisms. Molecular analysis included determining a DNA barcode (i.e., reference DNA sequence) for each species; describing genetic diversity and structure of populations and species, identifying cryptic species, and reconstructing their evolutionary histories.

CMarZ Highlights

Oceanographic cruises and sample collection: CMarZ carried out >90 oceanographic research cruises and samples for CMarZ have been collected from every ocean basin at > 12,000 stations. An additional 6,500 archived samples were made available for analysis.

Map of CMarZ sample locations, 2004-2010

Peer-reviewed publications: CMarZ researchers published > 200 peer-reviewed journal articles and book chapters, including 43 publications with new species descriptions. CMarZ also prepared a collection of 17 research papers for a 2010 special issue of Deep-Sea Research II titled Species Diversity of Zooplankton in the Global Ocean.

"Squidworm", new species of Polychaets from
the Celebes Sea. Photo: L. Madin/WHOI

Living images of zooplankton: Images of > 150 species of living zooplankton were prepared by CMarZ. The images served as tools for taxonomic identification (especially of fragile gelatinous forms), foundations of our education and outreach (E&O) efforts and media events, and “hooks” for increasing public interest and appreciation for marine biodiversity. Our photo galleries were among the top 10 entry pages for our website.

New species discovery: CMarZ collections in some of the oceans’ most diverse and under-sampled regions (e.g., Celebes and Andaman Seas, and Southeast Asia coastal waters) yielded a treasure-trove of new and rare species. CMarZ’s integrated morphological and molecular taxonomic analysis resulted in the discovery of 85 new species. Of these, 47 new species in 7 new genera and 2 new families were formally described and published.

DNA barcodes
: CMarZ placed a high priority on “gold-standard” barcoding (i.e., determination of a 600+ base-pair sequence for mitochondrial cytochrome oxidase I (mtCOI) for an identified specimen, with metadata and vouchering). Five CMarZ barcoding centers (UConn, USA; ORI, Japan; IOCAS, China;  AWI, Germany; NIO, India) determined DNA barcodes for at least 2,000 species (nearly 30%) of the ~7,000 described species of holozooplankton. The growing DNA barcode database will serve as a Rosetta Stone for species identification for individual specimens and environmental sequencing of bulk samples for years to come. The CMarZ barcode database will also provide the foundation for next-generation barcoding by high throughput and environmental sequencing of net-collected metazoans.

Copepods, colorplate from Giesbrecht, 1892

Web-based clearinghouse of taxonomic tools: CMarZ made available on its project website a comprehensive collection of reference materials to inform the taxonomic identification of zooplankton species for all taxa and many ocean regions. Examples include: licensed illustrations and published taxonomic descriptions (http://www.cmarz-asia.org/cgi-bin/db/species) by Shuhei Nishida; identification keys for zooplankton of European Seas, ZIMNES (http://www.sahfos.ac.uk/taxonmanual/index.php) by Steve Hay; and expansion of a monograph and atlas of planktonic ostracods of the Atlantic Ocean by Martin Angel (http://ocean.ioopan.gda.pl/ostracoda).

CMarZ Outcomes

Global view of zooplankton diversity, distribution, and abundance
: CMarZ produced new information to support a global view of zooplankton biodiversity (including numbers of species and their biogeographical distributions, abundance or biomass, and genetic diversity), as well as an estimate of the completeness of our knowledge. CMarZ efforts will provide a benchmark against which future changes resulting from climate change or other anthropogenic or natural variation can be measured.  Applications of CMarZ results for ocean monitoring and management are rapid and accurate detection of zooplankton species for ocean observation, fisheries management, and detection of introduced and invasive species.

New sampling and analysis technologies: CMarZ produced new deep-sea sampling technologies, including high-volume sampling below 5,000 m for accurate sampling of rare mesozooplankton, and new ship-board analytical approaches, including DNA sequencing during oceanographic research cruises. CMarZ has clearly demonstrated the power of our approach to characterizing species diversity through fully-integrated morphological and molecular taxonomic analysis.

Public appreciation for zooplankton diversity: CMarZ popular and news articles, living images, poster, and other products enhanced public understanding and appreciation for marine biodiversity (especially small organisms).

Students at a zooplankton identification workshop.

Capacity building: CMarZ enhanced research capacity in marine biodiversity and zooplankton ecology through the training of graduate students in the CMarZ Steering Group members’ laboratories and by international exchanges among CMarZ laboratories. CMarZ placed a high priority on training new zooplankton taxonomists, with 252 participants taking part in 27 Taxonomic Training Workshops since the project’s inception in 2004. Many students joined the CMarZ Network to seek answers to issues in their research.

Visit the Census of Marine Zooplankton website.