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What we don't know about the world's oceans


After a 10-year census of marine life around the world, scientists say they only know about a quarter of the marine species that exist. This map is a visualization of the project areas the census covered.

After a 10-year census of marine life around the world, scientists say they only know about a quarter of the marine species that exist. This map is a visualization of the project areas the census covered.

For every one critter in the world’s oceans that we know about, there are three that we don’t. That’s the conclusion some scientists have come to following a 10-year census of marine life.

The census found Australian and Japanese waters were to be by far the most biodiverse, followed by the oceans off China, the Mediterranean Sea and the Gulf of Mexico. (Check out some amazing photos here)

But after taking stock of all the species we do know about, Canadian researchers at a conference this week said they believe at least three-quarters of the world’s ocean species remain unknown.

The CBC reports:

“We’ve estimated that for every species we know about, there’s probably another three or four that we don’t know, that have never been sampled by science,” said Paul Snelgrove, a professor at the Memorial University of Newfoundland’s Ocean Science Centre who led the group that compiled the results of the international Census of Marine Life.

Larger species tend to be better known, and when it comes to small invertebrates and microbes, “our level of knowledge is zero in many parts of the ocean,” said Snelgrove Tuesday.

Among the less-explored areas are the arctic ocean – particularly the parts under ice – and the deep ocean, which is hard to access. But researchers note new species have been discovered off the Pacific coast as recently as last summer.

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