Even in Europe and the best studied seas, the rapid ongoing discovery of new marine species shows no end in sight, according to the world's first Census of Marine Life, a massive collaboration to catalog and map marine species worldwide involving hundreds of scientists in more than 70 countries.
The Census database has assembled more than 5.2 million new and previously existing records mapping the distribution of 38,000 marine species, an exponential increase from 1.1 million records and 25,000 species at this time last year. The progress, which tops a list of Census highlights in 2004, will be announced at a meeting of experts in Hamburg, Germany Nov. 29, along with news of a network of nine regional organizations (in Australia, Canada, China, Europe, India, Japan, New Zealand, South America and Sub-Saharan Africa) being formed to advance the world's "information seaway." A meeting of the CoML International Scientific Steering Committee will follow in Paris, Dec. 1 to 3.
Though still under construction, the $9.5 million Ocean Biographic Information System (OBIS) database already shows for the first time that near-surface records account for 95 percent of all existing observations of ocean life; less than 0.1 percent are from the bottom half of the water column. A specimen collected below 2000 m (6,000 ft) is about 50 times more likely to be new to science than one found at 50 m.
Contact: Terry Collins
Census of Marine Life