Friday, 13 March 2015

Dolphins, diatoms and sea dragons join census of all known marine life

Near-complete tally lists more than 220,000 species and deletes 190,400 duplicates.
12 March 2015

Taxonomists undertaking the daunting task of compiling a list of every species in the sea say that there are 228,445 known marine organisms. The team from the World Register of Marine Species (WoRMS) has eliminated 190,400 previously listed species, because they were duplicate identities.

WoRMS, hosted by the Flanders Marine Institute in Belgium, has more than 200 editors around the world combing through the published literature to tally what lives under the waves. In its latest update, published on 12 March, the organization said that it had added 1,451 creatures in 2014 alone. Jan Mees, the director of the Flanders Marine Institute and WoRMS co-chair, says that after a decade of work, the team has "nearly completed the inventory of all marine organisms that have ever been seen and described". The world's oceans are thought to contain somewhere between 700,000 and 1 million eukaryote species, however, so WoRMS has plenty more work to do.

Among the additions since 2008 are the Australian humpback dolphin (Sousa sahulensis). Originally proposed as a separate species in 2013 on the basis of skull and tissue analysis1, this animal was formally named last year2.

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