Census of Marine Life-affiliated scientists consolidating world databases of ocean organisms have demoted to alias status almost one-third of all names culled from 34 regional and highly specialized inventories.
The new World Register of Marine Species (www.marinespecies.org) contains about 122,500 validated marine species names (experts having recognized and tidied up some 56,400 aliases 32% of all names reviewed). It also contains some 5,600 images, hyperlinks to taxonomic literature and other information.
Marking the World Register's official inauguration, some 55 researchers from 17 countries met in Belgium to plan its completion by 2010. Leading WoRMS experts independently estimate that about 230,000 marine species are known to science. They also believe there are three times as many unknown (unnamed) marine species as known, for a grand total on Earth that could surpass 1 million.
"Convincing warnings about declining fish and other marine species must rest on a valid census," says Dr. Mark Costello of the University of Auckland, co-founder of WoRMS and a senior Census of Marine Life official. "This project will improve information vital to researchers investigating fisheries, invasive species, threatened species and marine ecosystem functioning, as well as to educators. It will eliminate the misinterpretation of names, confusion over Latin spellings, redundancies and a host of other problems that sow confusion and slow scientific progress."
Some species, such as those reclassified in years past based on new information, were shown to have a handful of names or more.
In such cases, the oldest name trumps later ones to become the valid name (though all aliases are noted to help researchers interpret centuries of scientific literature).
Popularly called Breadcrumb Sponge, Halichondria panicea is the marine world's reigning champion of Latin aliases,
|Contact: Terry Collins|
Census of Marine Life