Nearly 300 New Marine Species Found Near Australia

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The Bigger Picture

The new research is part of a larger scheme to map and evaluate Australia's marine territory, an area bigger than the country's landmass.

"We probably know more about the surface of the moon than we do about some of the vast reaches of our oceans," said Peter Garrett, Australia's minister for the environment, heritage and the arts.

"We clearly have an important national interest in understanding the range and abundance of sea life that's within our maritime borders."

Such research will also feed into the Census of Marine Life, a global network of researchers aiming to develop a comprehensive picture of the world's oceans. The first census report is due to be released in 2010.

With only 87 percent of Australian waters unmapped, it's not surprising that huge numbers of new species are being discovered, said Justin Marshall, a marine scientist at the University of Queensland in Brisbane, Australia, who was not involved with the research.

This latest discovery "shows us there's so much out there that we don't know" Marshall said. "We may be destroying habitat before we even know what's there, so we need to describe it before it's gone."

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