Sea Census Logs 185K Species ... and Counting

Project leaders say they've only recorded a fraction of marine life

By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff

Posted Aug 4, 2010 8:21 AM CDT

(Newser) – Scientists working on the Census of Marine Life have logged more than 185,000 species since the massive project began a decade ago, and say that's just a fraction of the total. The project—which has been trying to log all sea life from whales to single-celled creatures—plans to publish its "Catalog of the Seas" this fall, by which time it aims to have 230,000 entries. Project leaders estimate that for every species logged, four more remain unknown to science, Der Speigel reports.

"At the end of the Census of Marine Life, most ocean organisms still remain nameless and their numbers unknown," the leader of the census' coral reef project said. "This is not an admission of failure," she added. "The ocean is simply so vast that, after 10 years of hard work, we still have only snapshots—though sometimes detailed—of what the sea contains." Fish account for just 12% of sea life, the researchers estimate, with crustaceans and mollusks accounting for 40%.

This undated handout image provided by the Census of Marine Life shows, Prorocentrum, an unusual dinoflagellate with two large valves.
This undated handout image provided by the Census of Marine Life shows, Prorocentrum, an unusual dinoflagellate with two large valves.   (AP Photo/Bob Andersen and D. J. Patterson, Census of Marine Life)
This undated handout photo provided by the Census for Marine Life  shows a dragonfish that even has teeth on its tongue. They would be terrifying animals if they weren't the size of a banana.
This undated handout photo provided by the Census for Marine Life shows a dragonfish that even has teeth on its tongue. They would be terrifying animals if they weren't the size of a banana.   (AP Photo/Dr. Julian Finn, Museum Victoria, Census for Marine Life)
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