project news

Oceans Uncovered

News item submitted by Flora O'Brien
News item dated 8 Oct 2010

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The oceans have long held a reputation for being the most unknown, unexplored and mysterious habitat on Earth. Oceans comprise 99% of the Earth’s biosphere, and are vital in sustaining terrestrial life through the provision of oxygen, food and climate regulation. Earlier this week in a landmark study, the First Census of Marine Life (COML) reported the discovery of thousands of new marine species. The decade long study involved a team of over 2,700 scientists from 80 different nations. The project was by far the largest of its kind, costing £430 million and comprising over 540 expeditions reaching astonishing depths as great as 6.2 miles. Data was obtained from not only the ocean, but also from fishing catches, photographs and even restaurant menus.

The preliminary report indicates the formal discovery of 16,000 species new to science, including the ‘giant spiny lobster’ off the coast of Madagascar. Yet our knowledge of this lobster may never be expanded, as scientists are concerned that this novel species may soon become extinct as a result of fishing pressures.  This is not an isolated case in terms of extinction threats to marine species. Indeed, the census states that populations of large fish and marine mammals have declined by 90% on average since records began.

In 2009, our Frontier Madagascar team also discovered a new species on the uniquely biodiverse island of Madagascar: the black-bellied snake (Liophidium maintikibo). Although our team have not discovered any new marine species yet, the news that around 20% of oceans remain scientifically unexplored suggests that there remain ample opportunities for our researchers to discover many more creatures of the deep blue.
 

Flora O’Brien

 

New species found in Madagascar: The giant spiny lobster seen near Madagascar and the black-bellied snake discovered by Frontier (www.coml.org/discoveries/discoveries/new_species).


Read more about the Frontier Madagascar Marine Project