The Census of Marine Life won’t be complete until 2010, but scientists are already sharing some of their discoveries, including 5,300 new species, an octopus ancestor and a “white shark cafe.”
Some 700 scientists are presenting some of their findings this week in Valencia, Spain, at the World Conference on Marine Biodiversity. The Census of Marine Life project began in 2000; in 2010 the scientists plan to produce a complete list of 230,000 marine species.
The press release for the event and this year’s census update quoted Census vice-chair Myriam Sibuet of France as saying, “The impressive number of landmark findings over the past two years reveals the richness of what remains to be discovered. The vastness of the ocean and our new research tools keep marine biology forever young.”
The new findings include evidence that many deep-sea octopi evolved from an Antarctic octupus species, descendants of which still exist in the Southern Ocean. The photo shows Megaleledone setebos, the closest living relative of the ancient ancestor.
Also, a satellite tagging study revealed that great white sharks congregate in one part of the East Pacific Ocean for six months out of the year. There, both males and females make repeated dives to depths of 300 meters. Scientists speculate that the great whites are either feeding or reproducing in this Pacific “white shark cafe.” Learn more about the octopus and the shark cafe in this story from Reuters.
You can view more photos from the census here. The group will release more new findings every day during the conference, November 11-15.
The ocean is the least-explored place on the planet and the diversity — and weirdness — of its inhabitants always impresses me. What say you?
A 12-year veteran of environmental journalism, Dan Kulpinski is a frequent contributor to EarthSky. He also publishes the GreenListDC.org site and the GreenListDC Blog. Before joining EarthSky, he was a programming director at AOL and wrote the AOL Down to Earth blog.