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6,000-Plus New Marine Species; Census of Marine Life Discovers Fresh Life Underwater

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The Census of Marine Life, a ten-year project which aims to discover and catalog marine life, has discovered more than 6,000 new species. The researchers unveiled the results at the function held in London from Oct. 4 to 6. The project mainly aimed at better understanding and documenting deep-water ecosystems that rely on chemicals for food and energy, rather than sunlight. The team behind the endeavor comprises of scientists from research organizations in more than 80 nations, including the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI) under the leadership of Peter Wiebe, Nancy Copley, and Larry Madin.

WHOI researchers were key contributors in several other Census field projects, including the Census of Marine Zooplankton (CMarZ), the Census of Marine Life on Seamounts (CenSeam) and the International Census of Marine Microbes (ICOMM).

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As many as 540 expeditions were conducted since 2000. Scientists were able to explore previously inaccessible places such as the deepest, darkest, and hottest areas of the global ocean using the remotely operated vehicles (ROVs), autonomous underwater vehicles (AUVs), sonar and deep-sea imaging systems.

The first expedition searched for deep-sea hydrothermal vents along the Mid-Cayman Rise in October. It identified the deepest known hydrothermal vent site and two additional distinct types of vents, one of which is believed to be shallow, low-temperature vent.Taxonomy experts identified captured species under microscopes while researchers sequenced their genes to create unique DNA “bar codes.”

Results from the Census are entered into the newly-created Ocean Biogeographic Information System (OBIS) database, the world’s largest open access, the online repository of spatially referenced marine life data. Physorg says the data are also shared with the Encyclopedia of Life, the World Register of Marine Species, and the Marine Barcode of Life and Catalogue of Life projects.

It is hoped that the data will be crucial in forecasting, measuring, and understanding changes in the global marine environment, as well as improving the management and conservation of marine resources.

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