Museums map marine creatures
ABC News, Marine creatures: More than 1,400 new species added to world register, researchers say more to be found, 12 March 2015
A register of marine animals is counting just how many fish – and other species – are in the sea, and the number is climbing rapidly.
According to the World Register of Marine Species (WoRMS), there are 228,445 types of inhabitants in the world’s bodies of water.
More than 1,400 new species were added to the list, including some species found in Australia, but close to 200,000 previous entries were crossed off.
Fish collection manager at the Australian Museum in Sydney, Mark McGrouther, told PM’s David Mark the cull was most likely a case of duplication.
“What’s 190,000 species amongst friends?” he said.
“I suspect what’s happened here is that a lot of them are the same species that were named multiple times.
“So in fact, there’s a species of mollusc that I know was named about 50 different times.”
Among the new additions is a type of sea dragon found off the coast of Western Australia.
“Australia is home to sea dragons, they’re endemic to Australia … and previous to this new one, we knew we had the common sea dragon, or weedy sea dragon as it’s commonly called,” he said.
“This new one in fact looks very similar to the common sea dragon … in size and shape and everything … [but] its eye colour is different.
Mr McGrouther said the new find was discovered in the collection at the Western Australian Museum by researchers.
“This happens often with collections … there’s thousands of jars here and you have a specialist that comes in and says ‘hey wow, this thing here in this jar that was collected 50 years ago is new’.
“That’s possibly what happened too with this new sea dragon, people just didn’t realise it was different.”
‘New’ species found once a week
Mr McGrouther said new species of marine animal was found on average once a week.
“Just this year myself and a colleague from Taiwan described a new species of coffin fish,” he said.
“On average, about once a week, a new species – when I say new species, not necessarily new, could be a new record for the country – is discovered from Australia.