Census finds 5000 marine species
Posted on Tuesday 6th July 2010
A preview of the Census of Marine Life has revealed that the project has discovered over 5,000 new species.
These include bizarre and colourful creatures, as well as many organisms that produce therapeutic chemicals.
A panel of scientists presented these early insights at the American Association for the Advancement of Science annual meeting in San Diego.
The final report from the decade-long census will be released in October 2010.
The project has involved more than 2,000 scientists from 80 countries, and the researchers involved believe the census will lay the scientific foundations for marine policies to protect vulnerable habitats.
The researchers presented images of some of the most striking species discovered in the last decade, including a crab so unusual it warranted a whole new family designation. This member of the new Kiwaidae family of crabs, discovered near Easter Island, was named Kiwa hirsuta because of its furry appearance.
One member of the panel, Shirley Pomponi, a scientist from Florida Atlantic University, highlighted a new species of sponge.
This was found in the Florida Keys in August of 1999. Further investigation revealed that it produced a chemical with anti-cancer properties, which is now being investigated as a potential therapeutic.
Dr Pomponi said: "Adaptation to life in the sea has resulted in the production of chemicals that not even the most advanced computer program could produce.
"Mother nature still makes the best chemicals."