Video | Business Headlines | Internet | Science | Scientific Ethics | Technology | Search

 


Up to two thirds of marine species unknown to science

Media release

Faculty of Science
The University of Auckland


Up to two thirds of marine species unknown to science

At least one third of the species living in our oceans, and perhaps up to two thirds, are unknown to science according to the work of an international research group published online today in Current Biology.

The researchers calculate that there are less than 1 million marine species, far fewer than some previous estimates. Around 226,000 species have been described by science and as many as 72,000 more are in collections awaiting description.

The good news is that the rate of discovery is increasing, with an unprecedented 20,000 new marine species described in the last decade alone, suggesting that most marine species will be discovered this century.

“This is by far the most comprehensive assessment of how many marine species have been described to date, and how many undescribed species experts believe there may be,” says Associate Professor Mark Costello from The University of Auckland who co-led the research with Ward Appeltans of Flanders Marine Institute and the Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission (IOC) of UNESCO.

The study involved 120 of the world’s top experts on the taxonomy (classification) of marine species, and represents the sum of their opinions on how many species may exist. Mammals, birds, reptiles, insects and larger plants are some of the best-described groups of marine species to date. Many of the species yet to be discovered will come from amongst the smaller crustaceans, molluscs, algae, worms, and sponges.

“Knowing how many species there are in our oceans, and describing them, is vital for science and conservation for several reasons,” says Dr Costello.

“Species are the most practical measure for distinguishing habitats and tracking progress in exploring the Earth’s biodiversity. They are as fundamental to biology as elements are to chemistry and particles to physics. So failure to consider all species in an ecosystem is analogous to an accountant ignoring items of inventory in a company’s stock.”

“Better understanding of what species exist enables more accurate estimates of extinction rates due to habitat loss. In addition, having a standardised master list of species names is essential for quality assurance in science and the management of natural resources.”

“Inventories like these also reveal where taxonomic effort will discover most new species and this is the first step in biology, akin to an explorer discovering new land.”

The near completion of the World Register of Marine Species (WoRMS) – an open-access, online database that has received contributions from almost 300 scientists from 32 countries – set the stage for the current research. Based on its success, the scientists are calling on other research communities to create similar international collaborations and share their data online.

The study supports previous research by Dr Costello and colleagues, which used statistical modelling and an earlier version of WoRMS to reach a similar estimate of the number of species on Earth and in the oceans. It is the culmination of fourteen years’ work for Dr Costello, who began a European Register of Marine Species in 1997 that expanded until the World Register was initiated in 2006. He is currently Chair of the WoRMS Steering Committee.

The World Register of Marine Species can be found at: www.marinespecies.org
ends

© Scoop Media

 
 
 
 
 
Business Headlines | Sci-Tech Headlines

 

Half Full: Dairy Payouts Steady, Cash Will Be Tight

Industry body DairyNZ is advising farmers to focus on strong cashflow management as they look ahead to the 2015-16 season following Fonterra's half-year results announcement today. More>>

ALSO:

First Union: Cotton On Plans To Use “Tea Break” Law

“The Prime Minister reassured New Zealanders that ‘post the passing of this law, will you all of a sudden find thousands of workers who are denied having a tea break? The answer is absolutely not’... Cotton On is proposing to remove tea and meal breaks for workers in its safety sensitive distribution centre. How long before other major chains try and follow suit?” More>>

ALSO:

Scoop Business: NZ-Korea FTA Signed Amid Spying, Lost Sovereignty Claims

A long-awaited free trade agreement between New Zealand and South Korea has been signed in Seoul by Prime Minister John Key and the Korean president, Park Geun-hye. More>>

ALSO:

PM Visit: NZ And Viet Nam Agree Ambitious Trade Target

New Zealand and Viet Nam have agreed an ambitious target of doubling two-way goods and service trade to around $2.2 billion by 2020, Prime Minister John Key has announced. More>>

ALSO:

Scoop Business: NZ Economy Grows 0.8% In Fourth Quarter

The New Zealand economy expanded in the fourth quarter as tourists drove growth in retailing and accommodation, and property sales increased demand for real estate services. More>>

ALSO:

Scoop Business: RBNZ’s Wheeler Keeps OCR On Hold, No Rate Hikes Ahead

The Reserve Bank has removed the prospect of future interest rate hikes from its forecast horizon as a strong kiwi dollar and cheap oil hold down inflation, and the central bank ponders whether to lower its assessment of where “neutral” interest rates should be. The kiwi dollar gained. More>>

ALSO:

Get More From Scoop

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Sci-Tech
Search Scoop  
 
 
Powered by Vodafone
NZ independent news