It is difficult to describe the ocean’s vastness and variety of life, but that is exactly what some researchers have tried to do. In a study released this week, and carried out with the help of 270 taxonomists from 32 countries, researchers put the likely total for the world’s marine species at a tidy million species, only a third of which are known to science. Scientists arrived at the million figure by extrapolating from the rate of discovery of new species and by projecting from sampled areas of the ocean.
Of the roughly 230,000 species that have been described there are 200,000 animal, 7,600 plants, 19,500 diatoms, kelps and red algae known as chromista, 550 protists and 1,050 fungi (the study did not include bacteria, viruses or archaea). But even those species that are known can prove amazingly elusive. Last week scientists announced that a spade-tooth beaked whale and calf that washed ashore in New Zealand were the first such animals ever seen (what was known about the animal previously had come from skull fragments).
Hundreds of thousands more species await discovery.
What is your favorite species? is it the spanish dancer, the longnose sawshark, the pineapplefish? Check out our marine wildlife encyclopedia to learn more about just some of the million species of living beings in our oceans.