Gallery: Marine Census Finds the Beautiful Wee Beasties of the Deep Sea

By Andrew Moseman | April 19, 2010 4:58 pm


Kaleidoscopic. Delightfully odd. And too numerous to truly grasp.

There are many more words one could deploy to describe the worlds unknown under the sea. An international group of scientists has been scouring them for life for the last decade, and later this year, on October 4, the Census of Marine Life will release it catalog of marine inhabitants. “The number could be astonishingly large, perhaps a million or more, if all small animals and protists are included,” the organization says.

Octopuses, jellyfish, and other sprawling sea creatures dominated the census’ prior reports. But this time they’ve dived even deeper, surveying tiny life. Remotely operated deep-sea vehicles discovered that roundworms dominate the deepest, darkest abyss. Sometimes, more than 500,000 can exist in just over a square yard of soft clay [AP].

And then there are the microbes. The scientists conservatively estimate that there must be at least 20 million kinds of microbe in the oceans. The true number may even be billions or trillions [Nature]. Individual microbes reach even more astronomical number. There are probably a nonillion of them in the sea, the scientists estimate. That’s a billion cubed, and then times 1,000. Or, if you prefer your measurements given in the weight of African elephants, it’d be 240 billion of them.

Take a peek through this quick slideshow of some of the weirdest ocean life seen so far.

Image: David Patterson et. al.

  • nick

    Wee beasties ? Gettin scottish up in here.

  • Brian Too

    Aye, scottish. If it’s nae scottish, it’s CRAP!!


Discover's Newsletter

Sign up to get the latest science news delivered weekly right to your inbox!


80beats is DISCOVER's news aggregator, weaving together the choicest tidbits from the best articles covering the day's most compelling topics.

See More

Collapse bottom bar