The other long-form census

The head count is almost complete in the first tally of the world’s marine species

Antonina Rogacheva/Shirshov Institute/ Kevin Raskoff/Monterey Peninsula

The International Census of Marine Life, which has taken 10 years and the involvement of thousands of scientists across 80 countries to develop, is still a work in progress.

The effort to catalogue every species in the ocean, work that largely revolves around consolidating sometimes centuries-old information scattered across the globe into a central database, has already listed over 110,000 species. Scientists say that’s only a paltry 20 to 40 per cent of ocean life, and they hope to double that percentage as the October deadline for the unveiling of the comprehensive, publicly accessible guide to what lives beneath the waves approaches.

The point is to examine underwater biodiversity in order to understand how the oceans are threatened by human activity, and Canada—with 2,636 species being catalogued in its Pacific, 3,038 species in its Arctic and 3,160 in its Atlantic regions—has contributed more then its fair share to the study, including the project’s senior scientist, Dalhousie University’s Ron O’Dor. The five animals shown are only a modicum of that research, but they represent some of the strangest and most interesting life in Canadian waters.

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