Friday, 19 Sep, 2008 Science

Hundreds of New Species Discovered in Australian Waters


Scientists found hundreds of new kinds of animals that have never been described or collected before on Australian reefs.

The discovery was made during an expedition that was a part of the global Census of Marine Life project to the three sites off northwestern Australian waters. The places, where new creatures were found are long familiar to scientists, still there seemed to be a huge number of species undiscovered and it may takes years to study them.

"So in that sense, it's very significant in that if we don't understand what biodiversity is out there, we don't have much of a chance of protecting it," said Julian Caley, a scientist from the Australian Institute of Marine Science.

Among the animals found at Lizard and Heron Islands, located on the Great Barrier Reef and Ningaloo Reef in northwestern Australia, there were about 300 soft coral species, with around half of them never being recorded in scientific literature. Scientists also found a great number of tiny crustacean creatures, including the ones having claws longer than their bodies, new to science.

The expedition was run between April and September and lasted for about three weeks. Scientists at Australian Museum started working with thousands of the collected samples to record the diversity of living things in the oceans. They also plan to systemize how many species live on coral reefs of Australia, including the creatures never found before on the reefs and study their response to human intervention.

It will take around six years to explore the newly found species, like soft corals that are little understood in science so far.

During the study, researchers also used several plastic structures called Autonomous Reef Monitoring Structures{ARMS} to serve as a home for animals for further study of marine life that may take up to three years.

The findings are potentially helpful to humans, giving some answers to the problem of climate change and pollution.

The first census of 10-year initiative to evaluate and explain the diversity of marine life in the oceans will be published in 2010, being internationally supported by governments, the United Nations and private conservation organizations.


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