Marine census reveals 6,000 new ocean species

Researcher Niel Bruce of the Museum of Tropical Queensland studies specimens on Lizard Island Reef. Image: Gary Cranitch/Queensland Museum

More than 6,000 new species living in the world’s oceans have been discovered and categorised in the first global census of marine life.

Scientists from 80 nations have collaborated to assess the diversity, distribution and abundance of species in the world’s oceans, undertaking 540 expeditions and countless hours of research. The Census of Marine Life, which took over a decade to complete, contains observations on more than 120,000 marine species, from giant squid to 38,000 types of bacteria found in one litre of seawater.

During the study, scientists discovered and formally described 1,200 new species, including the Hydrothermal vent snail near Tokyo, the Yeti Crab on a vent near Easter Island in the Pacific and a new copepod, Ceratonotus steiningen, at a depth of 5,400 metres. Five thousand other species discovered are still awaiting formal description.

The scientists identified new habitats in the ocean, uncovered the hottest and deepest “black smoker” vents and discovered a Jurassic shrimp that was believed to have been extinct for 50 million years. They also discovered areas where the marine animals congregate, including “an evening rush hour” for fish in the Mid-Atlantic Ridge, and “white shark cafés” where the notorious predators seek out their daily meals.

The census also provided an opportunity for scientists to compare data and utilise advances in technology to improve the abundance assessments of marine populations. These included genetic bar-coding techniques that have increased the speed of species identification and new tagging and tracking methods.

The scientists also took the opportunity to standardise sampling protocols, providing a clearer picture of life in the oceans. The results can be used to measure and understand the changes to the marine ecosystems in the future.

View some of the amazing discoveries in our gallery below.

[Census of Marine Life]

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