Register for an account


Enter your name and email address below.

Your email address is used to log in and will not be shared or sold. Read our privacy policy.


Website access code

Enter your access code into the form field below.

If you are a Zinio, Nook, Kindle, Apple, or Google Play subscriber, you can enter your website access code to gain subscriber access. Your website access code is located in the upper right corner of the Table of Contents page of your digital edition.

Planet Earth

Discover Data: 20,000 Species Under the Sea

The Census of Marine Life releases first estimate of the ocean's species.

By William JacobsFebruary 5, 2004 6:00 AM


Sign up for our email newsletter for the latest science news

Drawing on three years of work by more than 300 scientists, the Census of Marine Life has released the first comprehensive estimate of the total number of species in the ocean. The census gives a better picture of Earth’s biodiversity, since 20 percent to 50 percent of all living things are aquatic. Researchers have already entered more than 20,000 organisms into the database, and they expect to add hundreds of newly found ones each year. To manage all the information, the census splits the ocean into six realms, determined by geography and climate. Team scientists then estimate how many forms of life have yet to be discovered in each realm based on how well it has been studied and how many species have been discovered there so far. On the deep ocean floor, for instance, more than 80 percent of the species being found are unknown. “The limiting feature of the discovery process will be descriptions,” says Ronald O’dor, the census’s senior scientist. “We need new people with the old taxonomic skills or we need alternate technologies.”

3 Free Articles Left

Want it all? Get unlimited access when you subscribe.


Already a subscriber? Register or Log In

Want unlimited access?

Subscribe today and save 70%


Already a subscriber? Register or Log In