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Many new species found in Indian Ocean

Last updated: 04 October, 2010
New Delhi, Oct 4, DHNS; 22:51 IST

The blue ocean encircling India from both sides has revealed many new species, including two deep-sea sponges, as part of the worlds most exhaustive marine life survey that revealed close to 2,50,000 new under-water varieties.

The Census of Marine Life, which has taken years, also indicates that there may still be 7,50,000 more new creatures in the ocean. And the Indian Ocean remains virtually unexplored.

“The Indian Ocean is poorly explored scientifically when compared to other oceans. According to available literature, over 24,000 marine species (plants and animals) are recorded from the region. But it is based on very limited surveys.

“A detailed coastal as well as deep sea study have to be initiated by India, if we are concerned in knowing ‘what is available where’ in our EEZ and beyond,” Baban Ingole, a scientist from the National Institute of Oceanography (NIO), Panaji, told Deccan Herald.
Ingole and his colleagues at the NIO are part of a team that contributed to the global Census, results of which were released in London on Monday.

The NIO team recorded four new species, including two deep sea sponges, from the Andaman Sea. One of the sponges was found in a volcanic sea mount at a depth of 705 metre near the Andaman Islands. The team is working on establishing the novelty of two other new species. “In addition, we do have many new species which are reported for first time from the Indian Ocean region. They include deep-sea brachiopods, spongen and small lobstor. Also, there are many species such as nematode worms, a spider, hipe corals, deep-sea brittle stars and gorgonian and crustaceans, which are yet to be identified,” he said.

More than 2,700 scientists have helped to compile the census, with more than 540 expeditions to visit all of the world’s oceans. The new species discovered include the blind lobster with a long, spiny, pincer, which were found 300 metre below the surface in the Philippine Sea. “This inventory was needed as marine species suffered major declines—in some cases 90 per cent losses—due to human activities and may be heading towards extinction, as happened to many species on land,” said Mark John Costello, professor at the University of Auckland.

For every marine species, Census scientists estimate that at least more are yet to be discovered. Scientists believe more than 70 per cent of fish species have been discovered, but for most other groups likely less than one-third are known. Scientists believe that the tropics, deep seas and southern hemisphere hold the most undiscovered marine species.

With India’s exclusive economic zone all set to increase, discoveries of economically important species are certainly considered significant, said Ingole.

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