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Published August 2, 2010

The Census of Marine Life has released the most comprehensive inventory of ocean life ever created. See some of the deep-sea stars of the "roll call," and find out which regions are the most diverse—and threatened.

© 2010 National Geographic, Census of Marine Life

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UNEDITED TRANSCRIPT

The Census of Marine Life has released the most comprehensive inventory of life in the ocean to date.

It's an unprecedented database of marine species living in 25 key ocean areas around the world.

The findings, published in the open-access scientific journal PLoS ONE describe species found in oceanic regions ranging from icy Antarctic waters…

To the Tropics

To temperate waters throughout the world.

And the Arctic.

Patricia Miloslavich, Ph.D., Simon Bolivar University, Venezuela

"This is the first time ever that all of this information is available in one single source for the public worldwide"

"So anyone around the world who wants to know about Caribbean Marine biodiversity for example, just goes to one place, clicks, will have a full article, and then will also have through the supporting material, will have lists of species of the most representative or most studied groups through the area"

The study found that some of the largest and best-known sea-creatures make up only a tiny portion of the ocean's biodiversity.

Animals like whales, seals, sea birds, turtles and walruses account for only two percent of the known marine species in the 25 regions...

...While crustaceans, including crabs, lobsters and shrimp, account for nearly twenty percent.

Microscopic algae and single celled organisms are the most widespread -- researchers observed these tiny organisms throughout the studied areas.

The waters of Australia and Japan earn the title of the most bio-diverse, each with almost 33 thousand known species, almost three times the average.

Researchers also found that some of the top five most diverse areas are also the most threatened.

These include the waters of the Mediterranean

China,

and the Gulf of Mexico.

Patricia Miloslavich, Ph.D., Simon Bolivar University, Venezuela

"Having an open access database that is a framework of the known marine biodiversity is one of the most useful tools you can have, not just for scientists, but especially for policy makers, because they are the ones who will make the decisions about what will be done with the oceans, what measures will be taken to protect it."

But even with this new inventory of the sea … much work remains to be done.

Census scientists estimate that for every known oceanic species, at least four more have yet to be discovered.

And while future research will continue to expand our knowledge of the ocean,

these latest findings represent a giant leap forward in our understanding of the wild and wonderful creatures that call it home.


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