Marine census now available

It’s ironic that “census” is a loaded word in the political context in Canada now, as Canada was a leader in the effort to take the global census of marine life over the past 10 years. First results of the census became available this week in the online journal Public Library of Science One. Canada’s contribution, entitled “From sea to sea: Canada’s three oceans of biodiversity” is not yet published. I’ll blog about it as soon as it appears. Media reports state that the census of the west coast of Canada shows the lowest number of species of all regions surveyed. It will be interesting to discover why.
The census of marine life was a huge international undertaking, on the scale of the Human Genome Project. More than 1200 new species have been discovered through the census so far; more discoveries are expected as reports roll in from many regions of the world. Four-fifths of the world’s species are in the oceans, and it’s the true final frontier. I remember visiting the Monterey Bay Aquarium in California about 10 years ago, and learning about newly discovered jellyfish (medussa) and squids. Last year, I learned at Science North in Sudbury that a squid larger than the giant squid had been discovered, sending scientists looking for a new moniker (they settled on “colossal squid”).
New submarine technology has allowed the census and other scientific exploration to extraordinary depths. But the census report authors point out that we’re trying to document many species under threat from overfishing, acidification, and habitat destruction. More when we hear from Canada.

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