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Curious marine creatures

Sonya Angelica Diehn
March 13, 2015

Scientists working on an inventory of all known ocean life have released information about the 1,500 marine species newly discovered in 2014 alone. DW shows you a few of the weirdest.

Sousa sahulensis dolphin (Photo: Robert Pitman)
Image: Robert Pitman

Researchers have released new information on the quarter of a million species that live in the Earth's oceans. The information is available through the World Register of Marine Species (WoRMS), an international effort to unite all existing knowledge of sea life.

After eliminating duplicate entries and adding new discoveries, the WoRMS database has tallied 228,450 marine species currently known to science.

In 2014 alone, nearly 1,451 new-to-science marine creatures were added to the database - that amounts to about four per day.

Sousa sahulensis, a newly described species of Australian humpback dolphin (pictured above) - is just one of these.

"Star-gazing" shrimp Mysidopsis zsilaveczi (Photo: Guido Zsilavecz)
Image: Guido Zsilavecz

Curiosities among the newly discovered species include the "star-gazing" shrimp Mysidopsis zsilaveczi, so called because its conspicuously banded eyes give the illusion that the animals are permanently gazing upwards. This shrimp lives on rocky reefs off the coast of South Africa.

Micrograph of Nitzschia bizertensis algae (Photo: Nina Lundholm)
Image: Nina Lundholm

Marine organisms run the gamut, from minuscule, single-celled protozoa to the gigantic blue whale. Among the tinier specimens newly described in 2014 is the alga Nitzschia bizertensis. Magnified several thousand times in the image above, this species found at Bizerte Lagoon, Tunisia, comprises of a solitary cell with two chloroplasts.

This freaky find is known to produce domoic acid, the neurotoxin in algal blooms that causes amnesic shellfish poisoning - which includes loss of short-term memory among its symptoms.

Litarachna lopezae ocean mite (Photo: Harry Smit)
Image: Harry Smit

Significantly larger than an alga cell, but more or less invisible to the human eye, is this species of mite, Litarachna lopezae. The species was named after entertainer Jennifer Lopez since, like her, it hails from Puerto Rico. Who says marine biologists don't have a sense of humor?

Aquatic mites can be described as cousins to spiders - many species of mite are parasitic, including the land-dwelling and blood-sucking insects we know as ticks.

Giant jellyfish Keesingia gigas in ocean (Photo: MIRG Australia)
Image: MIRG Australia/Jatotte

The whitish blob in the middle of the photo above is a giant jellyfish: Keesingia gigas. This new genus and species has no tentacles - or venom. Looking at this picture, you can see why sea turtles mistake plastic bags for jellyfish!

All these species demonstrate how oceans truly are the world's treasure chest - or Pandora's box - for life on Earth. As the species are further researched, they may yield specific benefits for humanity - for example, hundreds of drugs to treat cancer are predicted to derive from compounds in marine organisms.

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