Friday, March 13, 2015

WoRMS catalogue downsizes ocean life

Deep Sea ID, is an iOS app field guide interface to the World Register of Deep-Sea Species (WoRDSS), which is a thematic database of the World Register of Marine Species (WoRMS).
The App currently stores on your device (for offline access) the taxonomic information for over 24,000 deep-sea species, over 450 high-resolution photographs of deep-sea specimens as well as links to online taxonomic tools, sources and important references.

From BBC by Jonathan Amos (& LifeWatch)

A mammoth effort to catalogue all known ocean life is nearly complete.
It has taken taxonomic experts eight years to pull together all existing databases and compile one super-definitive list, known as the World Register of Marine Species (WoRMS).
Of the 419,000 species names recorded in the scientific literature, nearly half (190,400) have been shown to be duplicate entries.

The app is designed to improve access to taxonomic information for researchers and contractors working at sea, in the field or in the laboratory as well as educators and science communicators who wish to learn more about the remarkable diversity of deep-sea life.

One species of sea snail even had 113 different names.
The WoRMS editors have now put the number of species known to science at 228,450.
The vast majority - 86% or about 195,000 species - are animals.
These include just over 18,000 species of fish described since the mid-1700s, more than 1,800 sea stars, 816 squids, 93 whales and dolphins and 8,900 clams and other bivalves.

The remainder of the register is made up of kelp, seaweeds and other plants, bacteria, viruses, fungi and single-cell organisms.
Although the definitive list has shrunk in the process of compiling WoRMS, the catalogue continues to grow rapidly.
In 2014, 1,451 new-to-science marine creatures were added to the register. It is estimated another 10,000 or more new species are held in laboratories around the world just waiting to be described.

Dr Jan Mees is from the Flanders Marine Institute (VLIZ) in Belgium, and a co-chair of WoRMS.
He told BBC News: "The purpose of WoRMS was to create a master list of all organisms that have ever been observed and described in the world oceans.
"This task is now near completion. All the historical data have been entered in the database; all the names that have become redundant over time have also been identified and documented.
“And now we have a system in place that can be used as a backbone for data management activities and for marine biodiversity research; and that can be updated by a consortium of taxonomists."

A 'star-gazing' shrimp in South Africa, so-called because its eyes are fixed in an upward direction

Asked to name his favourite species in the list, Dr Mees pointed to the “stargazing” shrimp (Mysidopsis zsilaveczi) in South Africa.
It is so called because its eyes appear to be fixed in an upward-looking direction.
“The pigment pattern of the eyes gives the impression that animal is constantly gazing skywards. It’s not; it’s just an effect. But it’s beautiful.
"But then I would say that, because as well as being a member of the scientific steering committee for WoRMS, I’m also the taxonomic editor for the mysid shrimps.”

A 3-D scan of the newly discovered Ruby Seadragon

Added just last month, for example: A new species of sea dragon, the ruby red Phyllopteryx dewysea from southern Australia, distinguished via DNA analysis from two other sea dragon species.

The Gobiidae family of goby fish boasts the most new species added since 2008 with 131, followed by the Liparidae family of snailfish with 52.
Other new fish curiosities since 2008 include:
Sphyraena intermedia: A new third species of barracuda found in the Mediterranean
  • Protanguillidae: A new basal eel-like family discovered in Palau (species: Protanguilla palau)
Histiophryne psychedelica: An Indonesian frogfish with “psychedelic” colouring

Chlamydoselachus africana A particularly homely

New to science ocean species in 2014 include two dolphins, 139 sponges

Other forms of ocean life described in 2014 include two dolphins and 139 new-to-science sponges. Some previously-discovered sponges have yielded valuable cancer-fighting agents.
Studies foresee more than 200 oncology drugs derived from marine life compounds passing clinical trials - pharmaceuticals with an estimated value of at least US$560 billion.

The two new-to-science dolphins:

Sousa sahulensis: Australian humpback dolphin

  • Inia araguaiaensis: a long-snouted river dolphin from Brazil, a rare river mammal included in the WoRMS marine species database as an exception

  •  Scientists last year also described  12 new marine life families and 141 new genera (family and genus ranking higher than species on the eight-rung ladder of life’s scientific classification).

    A new genus of animal (Dendrogramma, with two associated species (Dendrogramma enigmaticaDengrogramma discoides) does not readily fit into an existing phylum - the top classification in the animal kingdom.
    Further research will resolve the issue but could lead to the historic addition of a new life classification.

    Other curiosities among the class of 2014:
    • Areospora rohanae: A new genus and species of parasite, first noticed by Chilean fisheries workers, that invades and causes lesions on the valuable King Crab. The taxonomist dubbed the little critter after his daughter.
     Keesingia gigas: A new genus and species of giant jellyfish - venomous and tentacle-free - named in honour of renowned Australian biologist John Keesing

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