Stories tagged marine life

Jul
02
2008

Who will be next to go?: The greatest loss of marine diversity is due not to habitat destruction, but clerical error.
Who will be next to go?: The greatest loss of marine diversity is due not to habitat destruction, but clerical error.Courtesy mattneighbour

No, not extinct. Just re-named. See, a species can have lots of common names -- for example, groundhog, woodchuck, marmot, ground squirrel, and annoying little beggar who keeps digging up my garden -- but only one scientific name -- in this example, Marmota monax.

But it seems the researchers who go about naming marine species got a little carried away, giving more than one scientific name to a single species. Sometimes it was an honest mistake. Sometimes it was due to individual members of the same species taking on widely different forms, fooling researchers into thinking they were separate species. And sometimes it was due to “splitters” – taxonomists who seize on any tiny difference to declare a new species.

But a new survey of all named sea creatures has found that 31% -- some 56,000 so far – are, in fact, duplications. Some invertebrate species had as many as 40 different scientific names. More duplicates are sure to be uncovered, as the project is only about half-way done.

An international team of more than 80 marine biologists has surveyed a coral reef in the Philippines and discovered thousands and thousands of species -- one of the most diverse spots on Earth. So far, over 100 have been confirmed as new to science, though the team estimates there could be several thousand new species in their study. (What makes this all the more amazing is that coral reefs grow in the tropical oceans -- one of the most hostile environments on the planet!)