Needle in a HaystackIsopod
The Census of Marine Life's ambitious goal is to document all life in the oceans, a task made even harder by creatures that are very difficult to tell apart, such as this little isopod.
Isopod crustaceans include both rare and abundant species. For census researchers, trying to sort out which is which can be like finding needles in a haystack.
The isopod pictured above was one of these needles, found by a team surveying waters around Antarctica. The researchers documented many new isopod species from the thousands of specimens collected. Some species were represented by just a single animal.
"The vast expanse of the oceans, the rarity of some animals, their movements and fluctuations challenge census researchers," said Jesse Ausubel, a program manager for the Sloan Foundation, a supporter of the project.
"Happily," she added, "the astonishing progress of the past six years [the census began in 2000] shows the community will create the first ever Census of Marine Life in 2010."
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Photograph by W. Broekeland ©2006, Courtesy of the Census of Marine Life