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At least one-third of marine species remain undescribed
Date:11/15/2012

Building this was not as simple as it should be, because there has not been any formal way to register species," Costello says.

A particular problem is the occurrence of multiple descriptions and names for the same speciesso called "synonyms," Costello says. For instance, each whale or dolphin has on average 14 different scientific names.

As those synonyms are discovered through careful examination of records and specimens, the researchers expect perhaps 40,000 "species" to be struck from the list. But such losses will probably be made up as DNA evidence reveals overlooked "cryptic" species.

While fewer species live in the ocean than on land, marine life represents much older evolutionary lineages that are fundamental to our understanding of life on Earth, Appeltans says. And, in some sense, WoRMS is only the start.

"This database provides an example of how other biologists could similarly collaborate to collectively produce an inventory of all life on Earth," Appeltans says.


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Contact: Lisa Lyons
elyons@cell.com
617-386-2121
Cell Press
Source:Eurekalert

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