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How many species on Earth? 8.7 million
Date:8/23/2011

(plus or minus 180,000) marine species of all kinds, about 250,000 (11%) of which have been described and catalogued. When it formally concluded in October 2010, the Census of Marine Life offered a conservative estimate of 1 million+ species in the seas.

"Like astronomers, marine scientists are using sophisticated new tools and techniques to peer into places never seen before," says Australian Ian Poiner, Chair of the Census' Scientific Steering Committee. "During the 10-year Census, hundreds of marine explorers had the unique human experience and privilege of encountering and naming animals new to science. We may clearly enjoy the Age of Discovery for many years to come."

"The immense effort entering all known species in taxonomic databases such as the Catalogue of Life and the World Register of Marine Species makes our analysis possible," says co-author Derek Tittensor, who also works with Microsoft Research and the UN Environment Programme's World Conservation Monitoring Centre. "As these databases grow and improve, our method can be refined and updated to provide an even more precise estimate."

"We have only begun to uncover the tremendous variety of life around us," says co-author Alastair Simpson. "The richest environments for prospecting new species are thought to be coral reefs, seafloor mud and moist tropical soils. But smaller life forms are not well known anywhere. Some unknown species are living in our own backyards -- literally."

"Awaiting our discovery are a half million fungi and moulds whose relatives gave humanity bread and cheese," says Jesse Ausubel, Vice-President of the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation and co-founder of the Census of Marine Life. "For species discovery, the 21st century may be a fungal century!"

Mr. Ausubel notes the enigma of why so much diversity exists, saying the answer may lie in the notions that nature fills every niche, and that rare species are poised to benefit from a chang
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Contact: Terry Collins
tc@tca.tc
416-538-8712
Census of Marine Life
Source:Eurekalert  

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