Census shows exotic sea life; helps study BP spill

Mon Oct 4, 2010 12:30pm GMT

* Thousands of new marine species found in 10-year census

* Benchmark to help assess climate change, BP oil spill

* Many fish, other marine species, dodge census takers

By Alister Doyle, Environment Correspondent

OSLO, Oct 4 (Reuters) - Scientists completed a 10-year census of marine life on Monday after finding thousands of exotic new species in a project that will help assess threats to the oceans ranging from climate change to BP's (BP.L: Quote) oil spill.

The $650 million international census, by 2,700 experts in 80 nations, discovered creatures such as a hairy-clawed "yeti crab", luminous fish in the sunless depths, a shrimp thought extinct in Jurassic times and a 7-metre (23 ft) long squid.

But the project (www.coml.org), which reckoned most types of creatures dodged the census and were still to be found, also documented overfishing of cod or tuna, hazards from oil and other pollution and impacts of global warming.

"The news about the oceans is both very good and very bad," said Paul Snelgrove, of Memorial University in Canada, who compiled the final report of a census that found more life than expected from the Arctic Ocean to volcanic vents on the seabed.

It raised the estimate of known marine animals and plants bigger than microbes, from worms to blue whales, to nearly 250,000 from 230,000. And it estimated that far more, or 750,000 other species, were still to be found.   Continued...

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