LONDON, UKAfter a decade of joint work and scientific adventure, marine explorers from more than 80 countries, including six scientists from the Marine Biological Laboratory (MBL), today delivered the first global Census of Marine Life revealing what, where, and how much lives and hides in the world's oceans. In one of the largest scientific collaborations ever conducted, more than 2,700 scientists spent over 9,000 days at sea on more than 540 expeditions gathering the data.
As a result of these efforts the scientists discovered that there may be up to 1 billion kinds of marine microbesmore than 100 times more diverse than plants and animalsand as many as 38,000 kinds of microbes in a typical liter of sea water.
A team of researchers from the MBL's Bay Paul Center and their colleagues in 25 countries were among the scientists contributing to the Census through their leadership of the International Census of Marine Microbes (ICoMM), a research project of the larger Census of Marine Life, which focused on the biodiversity of microscopic life forms in the world's oceans.
Over the last six years, ICoMM has amassed more than 25 million genetic sequences from microbes that swim in 1,200 sites around the Earthfrom polar bays to tropical seas; from estuaries to offshore; on corals, sponges, and whale carcasses; from surface waters to deep-sea smokers.
Most of the Earth's biodiversity is microbial in nature, particularly in the oceans. For more than three billion years, these creatures have mediated critical processes that shape the planet's habitability.
In 2006, ICoMM scientists made the startling discovery that while a few microbial species dominate the oceans, most of are very low in abundance. Mitchell Sogin, director of the MBL's Bay Paul Center and ICoMM project leader called this new and unexplored realm of microbial life the "rare biosphere."
Soon after this discovery, Sogin began utilizing a powerful ty
|Contact: Gina Hebert|
Marine Biological Laboratory