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Published April 18, 2010

The Census of Marine Life's ten-year study has uncovered numerous hard-to-see species unknown to science. For starters, an area the size of a small bathroom revealed 700 species of crustaceans.

© 2010 National Geographic

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Unedited Transcript

They’re mini-masterpieces…

Built with microscopic elegance…

The small and hard to see life of the sea…

Microbes…

Larvae…

Burrowers…

And they’ve been photographed…

And catalogued…

As part of a massive marine collaboration of scientists from across the globe…

Dr. Snellgrove

The Census of Marine Life is a ten-year program to try and uncover as much as we can about the diversity, distribution and abundance of life in the ocean.

A portion of this project, the Census of “Hard to See” Marine Life, focused on the smallest sea creatures…

And found them in spectacular abundance…

Dr. Snellgrove

…there was one sampling area in the South Atlantic that sampled an area about the size of a small bathroom. And found 700 species of just crustaceans, most of which were new to science.

Huge numbers of rarely seen species are coming to light…

And scientists are gaining a new understanding of the dynamics of a microbial world, on which all other life depends.

Dr. Snellgrove

…the microbes actually play a really key role in the way that nutrients move through the ocean. And if they weren’t there the ocean would shut down very quickly, the planet would shut down very quickly.

Census explorers recently found that microbes form mats on the sea floor off the west coast of South America. These mats rank among Earth’s largest masses of life, and cover a surface comparable in size to Greece

Amazingly, Census of Marine Life estimates that all microbes in the global ocean collectively weigh the equivalent of 240 billion African elephants!

All that the Census has learned over the last ten years…

About hard-to-see creatures…

And all the animals that live in the world's oceans…

Will be formally released in October 2010.

The results of this massive effort will give scientists an unprecedented new understanding, of life in the world ocean.

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