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Monday, August 2, 2010

New Trove From Marine Census

The Census of Marine Life has issued a fresh batch of information, and there are some spell-binding images of creatures from some of the best biological "hotspots" on the globe. A tooth-tongued dragonfish, an undersea Venus fly-trap (Actinoscyphia sp.) from the Gulf of Mexico, a deep-sea "flashing" jellyfish (Atolla wyvillei) from Japan's Izu Islands, a cuddly roundnose grenadier fish (Coryphaenoides rupestris) and a new species of knobbed sea cucumber (Elpidia belyaevi) are some of the most arresting.

It's part of the run-up to the scheduled release in October of the final summary of a decade of this gargantuan project.

The title this time is "What Lives in the Sea?" with the focus on "an inventory of species distribution and diversity in key global ocean areas." I'll quote from the press release in a moment, but first take a look at these photographs, and these, and videos from CoML (and National Geographic).

Here's CoML on the publication of these latest findings:
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.
They also crown five locations as ocean diversity leaders:
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.
The video notes researchers have found that some of those top five areas "are also the most threatened" -- the Mediterranean, waters off China, and the Gulf of Mexico. Alas, you might notice that a good number of the species in the slide show reside in the Gulf of Mexico, currently saturated with BP crude.

I just got "World Ocean Census" -- one of many CoML-related books on offer -- a glimpse into what has gone into this incredible, collaborative scientific effort. I look forward to reading it and others ahead of the October 4 findings.

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