The Census of Marine Life Throws Up Surprises

Posted in Wildlife A-Z | October 7, 2010 | Comment Now

The Census of Marine Life which took about ten years to complete is said to have thrown up some interesting surprises that has taken scientists, researchers and marine life enthusiasts by surprise. National Geographic News spoke about the closing of the Census on Monday, 4th of October, 2010.  Here’s a look at some of some of the discoveries made by the decade long inventory.

Tube Worms That Are About 600 Years Old:

These worms, called Escarpia Laminata, were discovered by the Census of Marine Life and further research showed that some of these could live for up to 600 years. This would easily make them some of the oldest known animals to inhabit Earth.

The Giant Oyster:

There was another remarkable discovery made. A new species of the giant oyster, which was named Neopycnodonte zibrowii, was discovered during the period of the census. The seashells of this species are known to form reefs on the underwater cliffs. Radiocarbon dating on the shells showed that they’d been around for about 100 to 500 years.

Microbes Abound:

It was an accepted fact that microbes have a lot to do with the functioning of an ecosystem. But the findings of the census have thrown an entirely new light on the issue. About 90% of the oceans are said to be made up of microbes that are hard to see with the naked eye. If this wasn’t surprising enough, may be this piece of information should help. This mass of microbes put together will weigh as much as 35 elephants for every human walking Planet Earth.

There may be a zillion other microbe species out there in the waters of the sea. We hardly know anything about them as yet. This census has attempted to span all the waters of the Earth and has tried to catalogue all that there is in the oceans. Even the tiniest species have been taken into consideration.

Species Unknown:

Around 540 expeditions were carried out in countless areas across the world. The idea was to cover every piece of land covered with water on Earth. As huge as the project may have been; and as long as it took to complete, the truth of the matter is that there is about 20% or more of water area that has not been touched by the explorers. The total tally of known species may have gone up to 250,000 from the previously known 230,000, but this census is still not reliable when it comes to the total number of species in the world. There is still a lot that remains unknown, claim experts.

That’s Not Manhattan! That’s a Fish School:

Atlantic Herring that came tens in a million were said to be tracked in the Gulf of Maine. The school that they ultimately formed was said to be the size of Manhattan.

This discovery was made by the acoustic system that had been put in place by the census. This new system allowed for the scientists to track fish over thousands of square miles. This was one of the new tools created during the phase of this census.

Dollhouse Corals To Reveal More About Corals:

The Automated Reef Monitoring Structures (ARMS) were made to look like empty dollhouses. They were mimicked versions of the natural coral reefs. These acrylic structures allowed the species to move around, while the researchers could keep an eye on them. According to the reports of ARMS, there are so many diverse species of corals around the world that it will be difficult to put a finger on the number of species available.

(Note: Most of the information given here will also be found in the National Geographic Society Book – Citizens of the Sea: Wondrous Creatures From the Census of Marine Life)

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