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

as sea lettuce. The newest organisms to science are five species of flatworms which were described in 2003. Recent and planned exploration of the New England Seamounts may yield new species, but most certainly will provide first records of plants or animals found in other parts of the world, such as the Mid-Atlantic Ridge or the eastern North Atlantic.

  • We associate corals with warm tropical waters rather than the cold Gulf of Maine. But the Gulf of Maine region hosts 14 known species of deepwater coral, some of which have only recently been found by Gulf of Maine scientists.

    Image on left: Gersemia rubiformis, Red Soft Coral. Photo © Andrew Martinez, used with permission of publisher, Down East Books.

  • Species of animals without backbones (invertebrates), including sponges, jellyfish, worms, mollusks, echinoderms such as starfish, sea urchins and sand dollars, and crustaceans, outnumber those with backbones, such as fishes, birds, and mammals, almost 2-to-1 (1,669 invertebrate species v. 914 vertebrate).
  • Nearly one-quarter of all known species ?733 in all -- in the Gulf of Maine region are plants (aquatic, photosynthetic organisms, ranging from single-celled forms to kelp, that are the base of the marine food chain). Most are tiny. One teaspoon of seawater can hold more than a million phytoplankton (tiny plants that float with currents). Phytoplankton also are the species that give otherwise blue oceans (reflecting the color of the sky) their varying colors.
  • Two of the microscopic plant species are of the genus Alexandrium and are the source of the paralytic shellfish poisoning known as "red tide." A major red tide swept the New England coast in 2005, shutting down the clamming industry for weeks.
  • What New Englanders call the "steamer, "long-neck," squirt clam," or "belly clam" ?or simply "the clam" -- is a species formally known as Mya arenaria and commonly known a
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  • Source:Census of Marine Life


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