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Catalogue of marine life reaches 122,500

by Staff Writers
Washington (AFP) June 26, 2008
Scientists have identified some 122,500 species of marine life in the oceans and have managed to clear up some 56,000 cases of double-identity as part of a global research project.

"Convincing warnings about declining fish and other marine species must rest on a valid census," said Mark Costello of the University of Auckland in a statement Wednesday.

"This project will improve information vital to researchers investigating fisheries, invasive species, threatened species and marine ecosystem functioning, as well as to educators."

The new World Register of Marine Species ( now contains about 122,500 validated marine species names, and has cleared up the aliases given to thousands of species.

"It will eliminate the misinterpretation of names, confusion over Latin spellings, redundancies and a host of other problems that sow confusion and slow scientific progress," Costello said.

Researchers aim to finish the project by October 2010.

"It adds difficulties to project like the census where we have to integrate data from different sources into one data base, because of different names to the same thing," said Edward Vanden Berghe, from the Ocean Biographic Information System at Rutgers University.

Since the middle of the 18th century when scientists first began to set up a system to name and classify plant and animal life, several different species have inadvertently been given different names.

The Breadcrumb Sponge, known by its Latin name of Halichondria panicea, was the champion of Latin aliases, collecting some 56 synonyms since its first description in 1766.

The animal which has no fixed abode and likes to float along or attach itself to rocks, smells like exploded gun-powder and is known to change its appearance.

"Animals on land or on the sea don't walk around with their names on their face," said Philippe Bouchet, professor at the Natural History Museum in Paris.

"The history of science is full of approximations, of intuitions and of errors," he told AFP.

Launched in 2000, the census aims to classify and identify all marine life, and involves some 100 scientists working in 80 countries. The census should contain an estimated 230,000 species once it is complete in 2010.

But Bouchet said the work completed so far represents just "the tip of the iceberg, given all the species that remain to be discovered and are continually being discovered."

Before the cataloguing is done, he said, researchers could uncover "five times as many marine species" as those currently known.

There are also several other ongoing projects aiming to catalogue the Earth's biodiversity and classify the 1.8 million species of plant and animal life on the planet.

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Single Insecticide Application Can Kill 3 Cockroach Generations
West Lafayette IN (SPX) Jun 26, 2008
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