OSLO – Scientists identified almost 1,500 new creatures in the world’s oceans last year, including a humpbacked dolphin and a giant jellyfish, and reckon that most species of marine life are yet to be found.
The experts publishing their findings Thursday listed a total of 228,450 marine species worldwide, ranging from seaweeds to blue whales, and estimated that between 500,000 and 2 million more multicelled marine organisms were still unknown.
“The deep sea has been poorly explored so far,” said Jan Mees, co-chair of the World Register of Marine Species (WoRMS).
Many species were likely to go extinct — due to pollution, climate change and acidification — before they were even found, he said.
For 2014, the project identified 1,451 new marine species — about four a day — including the Australian humpback dolphin, 139 sponges, a South African “star-gazing shrimp” and a giant, venomous, tentacle-free box jellyfish about 50 cm (20 inches) long found off Australia.
Since the WoRMS project began in 2008, it has also listed about 1,000 new types of fish — including a combined total of 122 sharks and rays, and a new barracuda in the Mediterranean sea. There are now about 18,000 known species of fish.
Marine life can have big economic value — sponges and molluscs are among species that have yielded cancer-fighting agents.
Mees, director of the Flanders Marine Institute in Belgium where WoRMS is based, said marine prospecting for “blue biotechnology” around volcanic vents on the seabed could also help develop materials resistant to heat and toxins.
Along with new species, a review by 200 editors also slashed about 190,000 species from the world lists after finding they duplicated already known organisms. That cut the total to 228,450 from almost 419,000.
One sea snail, often known as a “rough periwinkle,” had a record 113 descriptions by scientists unaware it had been catalogued by an Italian expert in Venice in 1792.
Deep regions of the oceans and tropical coral reefs were among promising sites to hunt for new species, Mees said. And the Indian Ocean is relatively unexplored compared to the Atlantic and Pacific.
Among marine species identified in 2014, a mite found off Puerto Rico was given the Latin name Litarachna lopezae in 2014, after entertainer Jennifer Lopez, who comes from the U.S. territory.
A scientist in Britain, Grant Stentiford, gave a parasite that affects crabs off Chile the name Areospora rohanae, after his daughter Rohana.
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