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Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Octopuses Have "Living Ancestor", Part II


Written by: Mark Kinver, Science and environment reporter

'Unprecedented project'

The deep-sea octopus study, along with dozens of other projects, form part of the census's fourth progress report, which will be presented at the World Conference on Marine Biology, which begins in Valencia, Spain, on Tuesday. 

The overarching objectives of the global collaboration between CoML's scientists include:

  • Advancing technology for discoveries
  • Organising knowledge about marine life, and making it accessible
  • Measuring effects of human activities on ocean life
  • Providing the foundation for scientifically based policies

Dr O'Dor said that the main focus of the CoML for the remaining two years was to "synthesise" the data.

"Many of our projects have already completed their fieldwork and we have a lot of information," he observed.

Tag receivers (Image: Paul Winchell)
An array of receivers in the Pacific Ocean reveal fish migration routes

"What we are now trying to do is to bring all that information together in a form that allows the public to understand how much we have learned about the ocean and what lives in it."

As far as improving our understanding of life beneath the waves, Dr O'Dor said: "It has been successful beyond what I imagined when I first became involved.

"It will provide a baseline. We are not going to know everything about what is happening within the oceans, but we have samplings of most marine habitats.

"We are moving into this period of global warming, which is resulting in the acidification of the oceans, melting of the polar ice cap.

"We can use the first census as a benchmark to see what happens in the oceans over the next decade or more."

Meeting formally for the first time at the five-day gathering in Valencia will be the CoML's Science Council, which will take an overview of the 10-year Census.

"Over the past few years, there has been huge public interest in biodiversity because there is a legitimate concern about the changes being caused by humans," commented Patricia Miloslavich, the Census's co-senior scientist.

"The Science Council will (consider) what people have said about areas that have not been explored or taxonomic groups that have been overlooked in the past," she told BBC News.

"We have had this first census that has given outstanding and amazing results for many ecosystems and regions.

"But now that we have been able to identify where there are some gaps, we would like to explore these areas."

Dr Miloslavich added that the Science Council will also develop the objectives of the second census, which will run from 2010 until 2020.

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