Census of Marine Life discovers new species in the ocean depths

Mon, Nov 23rd 2009, 11:54

The Census of Marine Life is a massive 10 year scientific collaboration by scientists from 34 countries who are charting the deepest reaches of our oceans and discovering a wealth of new species we never knew existed.

The Census of Marine Life has so far recorded 5,722 species living more than 1 kilometre down in the ocean depths. This is a realm where no sunlight penetrates, so creatures cannot rely on photosynthesis for survival. At these depths, life has to adapt other means to survive. Some creatures break down the bones of dead whales or live on other droppings from the sunlight layer above, while others survive on bacteria, or break down oil, sulphur or methane.

The final results of this 10 year Marine Life census will be released in October 2010. By then the project will have involved over 340 scientists from across the globe, fielding over 200 expeditions using deep-towed cameras, sonar and a host of intriguing technology to probe the least known areas of our planet. The deep sea ecosystem is actually the most vast ecosystem on earth, but it is also the least studied ... until now.

Apart from a host of tiny creatures that are being discovered, the scientists have found a new species of sea cucumber, and even established a new genus. They have also observed an elephant seal dive to an incredible depth of 2,388 metres below the surface. To think, the human eardrum would burst at just 10 metres below sea level!

Read more about the Census of Marine Life.

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