The "Census of Marine Life," posted in part today at the Public Library of Sciences website, identifies about 230,000 different species so far (with diversity hot-spots Australia and Japan evidencing a whopping 33,000 species per each of the countries' waters).
And all of that came after surveying just 5 percent of the total area of the world's oceans. Overall, the census' authors estimate that there could be 1 million to 1.4 million marine species on earth.
"One conclusion is that we have a lot more to learn about the ocean," said Sylvia Earle, explorer-in-residence at the National Geographic Society in Washington, D.C., according to Nature News.
Even the freaky, amazing new species that so far have been included in the census -- such as the Dragon Fish in Australia and the "Zombie Worm" discovered off the coast of Sweden -- pose a challenge for biologists looking to create a thorough catalog. As one scientist noted in the journal Nature, the lack of experts in marine species taxonomy may set back the identification process for newly discovered species.
Still, as the census continues, the hope is that it will lead to a better understanding of how full of life the oceans truly are and how to protect them from a growing list of human-induced problems, such as "overfishing, habitat loss, invasive species and pollution, as well as warmer water temperatures and ocean acidification," Nature reported.
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Check out the census at PLoS ONE and read more about the process and the findings at Nature News.