The Furry Lobster

After 10-year effort that included icy waters diving, visual detecting robots into deep-black ocean depths, elaborate spy networks of microphones, scientists unveiled the results of finding 6,000 new ocean species.

The 2010 Census of Marine Life, designed to catalog what lives in the ocean, where and to what extent, found strange new beasts such as a hairy white blind 6 inch long crustacean called the Yeti Crab, and discovering several species (once thought to be extinct). More scientifically known as Kiwa hirsute, its fuzzy, winter-white coat might look at home in the Himalaya, the yeti crab was found flittering around hydrothermal vents ~2.4 km under the South Pacific off Easter Island in March 2005.

It was found by a group organized by Robert Vrijenhoek of the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute in Monterey, California; and Michel Segonzac of the Ifremer,;and a Census of Marine Life scientist. The animal has strongly reduced eyes that lack pigment, and therefore is thought to be blind. Although it is generally thought to be a carnivore, its food is likely bacteria.

Often referred to as the “furry lobster” outside the scientific literature, Kiwa hirsuta is actually a squat lobster, more closely related to crabs and hermit crabs than true lobsters. Kiwa is named after “the goddess of the shellfish in the Polynesian mythology,” and in Maori mythology, is a male guardian of the sea. Hirsuta means “hairy” in Latin. (Alsdon Best; The Maori – Volume 1. pp. 89–105; Cosmogeny and Athropogeny.)

For a wonderful list of the photos of the new species found during the 10 year Marine Census, visit National Geographic:

From Summary of the First Census of Marine Life 2010 (Complete)
In the late 1990s, leading marine scientists shared their concerns that humanity’s understanding of what lives in the oceans lagged far behind our desire and need to know. Some emphasized the question, “What kinds of life inhabit the oceans?” They pointed to opportunities to discover new kinds of life and to catalog and estimate the total diversity of life in the vast global ocean. Others asked, “What lives where?” They highlighted establishing addresses of marine life and drawing reliable maps of neighborhoods and travels. Still others asked, “How much of each lives?” and pointed to the human appetite for seafood. Everyone worried about changes in marine life and the need to improve management with sound knowledge.

In the year 2000, the scientists founding the Census of Marine Life converged on a strategy, a worldwide Census to assess and explain the diversity, distribution, and abundance of marine life. The founders organized the Census around three grand questions: What did live in the oceans? What does live in the oceans? What will live in the oceans? They designed a program to explore the limits to knowledge of marine life. They agreed to report in the year 2010. Delving in archives, setting out on more than 540 expeditions in all ocean realms, and partnering with other organizations and programs, the 2,700 scientists from more than 80 nations who have become the Census community have assembled, augmented, and organized what is known about life in the oceans. They have drawn baselines for measuring changes of marine life after natural changes and human actions. Equally important, the Census has systematically delineated for the first time the unknown ocean.

Many books, papers, Web sites, videos, films, maps, and databases now form and report the Census. The following summarizes its findings, describe its legacies, and tell how it worked.

The Census encountered an unanticipated riot of species, which are the currency of diversity. It upped the estimate of known marine species from about 230,000 to nearly 250,000. Among the millions of specimens collected in both familiar and seldom-explored waters, the Census found more than 6,000 potentially new species and completed formal descriptions of more than 1,200 of them. It found that rare species are common. With its collective digital archive grown to almost 30 million observations, the Census compiled the first regional and global comparisons of marine species diversity. It helped to create the first comprehensive list of the known marine species, already passing 190,000 in September 2010, and also helped to compose Web pages for more than 80,000 of them in the Encyclopedia of Life. Applying genetic analysis on an unprecedented scale to a dataset of 35,000 species from widely differing major groupings of marine life, the Census graphed the proximity and distance of relations among distinct species, painting a new picture of the genetic structure of marine diversity. With the genetic analysis often called barcoding, the Census sometimes shrank seeming diversity by revealing that organisms had been mistakenly called separate, but generally its analyses expanded the number of species—and especially the number of kinds of different microbes, including bacteria and archaea.

After all its work, the Census still could not reliably estimate the total number of species, the kinds of life, known and unknown, in the ocean. It could logically extrapolate to at least a million kinds of marine life that earn the rank of species and to tens or even hundreds of millions of kinds of microbes. Distribution
The Census found living creatures everywhere it looked, even where heat would melt lead, seawater froze to ice, and light and oxygen were lacking. It expanded known habitats and ranges in which life is known to exist. It found that in marine habitats, extreme is normal.

With sound, satellites, and electronics, some- times carried by marine life itself, the Census tracking of thousands of animals mapped migratory routes of scores of species and charted their meeting places and blue highways across the interconnected ocean. The tracking measured animals? surroundings as they swam and dove and revealed where they succeed and where they die. The Census found temperature zones favored by animals and saw the immigration into new conditions such as melting ice. Now anyone can see the distribution of a species by entering its name at, a Web site that accesses the names and “addresses” of species compiled in the Census’s global marine life database.

For a short video on the ocean project, visit the Great News Network:

And for one of our very fun Science Ocean Card Decks, including 4 Interactive Learning Card games:

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