Research Expedition Reveals a Million New Microscopic Species

Written by on September 27, 2012 in Marine Life
A diatom, a microscopic organism. Photo credit AFSC/NOAA .

A diatom, a microscopic organism. Photo credit AFSC/NOAA .

A 70,000 mile expedition aboard the research vessel Tara has revealed up to one million species of microscopic sea life that are new to science.

The Tara was on a two-and-a-half year voyage dedicated to providing a snapshot of life at the bottom of the marine food chain.  The crew collected more than 30,00 samples of sea water from across the Earth.

Throughout the expedition, the research team recorded 1.5 million species of marine microorganisms.  Knowing more about these organisms, from their distribution to their life cycle, will help scientists learn more about climate change and the animals that eat them, including fish and whales.

Because they are a vital component of marine food chains, a change in the distribution of these microorganisms could greatly affect fisheries and even lead to a collapse of marine food chains.

“Nobody has ever done this on the scale that we have before,” explained Dr. Chris Bowler, scientific coordinator of the expedition. “We will be analyzing results in the lab for a number of years.”

They will be looking to answer many questions:

  • How much does pollution affect the microorganisms?
  • How sensitive are they to temperature changes?
  • If they migrate due to temperature change, how will it affect local fisheries?
  • What is their overall role in the ecosystem?

Watch the following video to see some amazing footage of the deep sea and the vessel.

To read more, check out this story from The Independent: Journey to the Antarctic Ocean

Phytoplankton is the foundation of the marine food chain. Photo credit MESA/NOAA.

Phytoplankton is the foundation of the marine food chain. Photo credit MESA/NOAA.

Copyright © 2012 by Marine Science Today, a publication of Marine Science Today LLC.

About the Author

About the Author: Emily Tripp is the Publisher and Editor of MarineScienceToday.com. She holds marine science and biology degrees from the University of Miami's Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science and a Master of Advanced Studies degree in Marine Biodiversity and Conservation from Scripps Institution of Oceanography. When she's not writing about marine science, she's probably running around outside or playing with her dog. .

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