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The diversity of marine life in the Gulf of Maine region is much greater than previously thought

st are invisible to the human eye, they are collectively major players in the web of ocean life."

The Census of Marine Life is a global network of researchers in more than 70 nations engaged in a ten-year initiative to assess and explain the diversity, distribution, and abundance of marine life in the oceans -- past, present, and future. The Gulf of Maine Census, which is based at the University of Southern Maine, is one of 17 projects worldwide and serves as a demonstration of how to undertake a census in a large marine ecosystem.

Interesting facts derived from the Gulf of Maine Register of Marine Species

  • Marine species in the Gulf of Maine range from miniscule, like the diatoms, to gigantic, the largest being the blue whale. The smallest species, like the phytoplanktonic diatoms and dinoflagellates, number in the billions, while the larger species can be rare, such as the right whale, of which there are only a few hundred in the Gulf of Maine.
  • Like summer tourists, at least 18 species of marine mammals spend only part of the year in the Gulf of Maine. One of the more famous is the humpback whale, whose Latin name Megaptera novaeangliae means "big-winged New Englander." Whales migrate to colder waters for feeding in the summer, and to tropical waters to give birth in the winter.
  • Mammals like the humpback whale are at the top of the marine food chain and depend on multiple species lower in the chain. For example, a humpback whale may need to eat a ton of herring (about 5,000 fish). Each herring has fed on hundreds of zooplankton (animals that float with the currents), such as shrimp-like species called krill. And each krill has fed on as many as 130,000 diatoms. Therefore, one meal for a humpback may represent more than 400 billion diatoms. (Cerullo, M., 1999, Sea Soup, p. 14).
  • The oldest described species in the register is from 1753, a green alga called Ulva lactuca, commonly known
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Source:Census of Marine Life


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