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New Zealand-Led Global Marine Project Showcased

5 May 2008

New Zealand-Led Global Marine Project Showcased
On Sanyo Million-Word Street Posters

Click for big version

A pioneering New Zealand-led project to produce an authoritative register of all the world’s marine species is being showcased on a series of gigantic street posters unveiled in Christchurch yesterday.

The street posters, with each series measuring 75m long and put together by Saatchi & Saatchi to advertise the Sanyo Xacti CA65 underwater camera, feature a million words about the sea and sea creatures.

Each 75m span includes the full texts of Moby Dick and Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea, plus the names of over 120,000 marine species formally validated as part of the World Register of Marine Species (WoRMS) at

WoRMS is the brainchild of University of Auckland Leigh Marine Laboratory Associate Professor Mark Costello and colleagues at the Flanders Marine Institute, Belgium who host the database.

Its goal is to cross reference the results of international marine research findings in order to produce a comprehensive and definitive register of all marine species. WoRMS is unique in that the world experts in marine species edit and validate the species names and associated information; at present over 100 experts contribute.

Projects supplying information for WoRMS include a groundbreaking ten-year Census of Marine Life, the largest ever global marine biology research project.

Dr Costello, who ran a similar species register project in Europe between 1999-2000, says getting global coordination on species names is critical.

“Once I got involved in the global census I could see all sorts of issues coming up. There was a huge amount of misinterpretation of names, not to mention confusion over the Latin spellings, with people using different names for the same species and vice versa,” he says.

Dr Costello, who is the co-chair of the WoRMS steering committee, says the task is two-fold – validating the names of known species, and keeping pace with new discoveries.

“Not only have we not got a complete register of the marine species that are known, we haven’t even identified everything in the sea; in fact scientists estimate there are over one million marine species but only one fifth have been named so far,” Dr Costello says.

WoRMS was launched late last year and passed its first 100,000 species milestone in late February. Its next target is to have validated 200,000 species names by the end of 2008, of an estimated 230,000 believed to have been formally described.

The million-word street posters are believed to be an advertising world first in terms of number of words on a piece of creative. And if a picture’s worth 1,000 words, the imagery captured by the Sanyo Xacti CA65 has to be worth a million. The camera is waterproof for up to an hour at depths of up to 1.5 metres, and can capture movies and 6 mega-pixel images simultaneously.

Saatchi & Saatchi creatives Helen Steemson and Matthew Swinburne say the million word concept was inspired by the incredible breadth and depth of the sea and the species it hosts.

“It demonstrates how amazing the sea is and how much there is to say about it. Basically, the concept highlights the benefits of being able to film underwater and capture this whole other amazing world,” Helen says.


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