How Many Marine Species Are There?

Written by on November 18, 2012 in Marine Life

Emily Tripp

A unique study conducted by 270 taxonomists from 32 countries has determined that there are about one million species in the ocean.

Each taxonomist (a scientists who specializes in classifying organisms) calculated the actual number of species within their specialty as well as the estimated number of species that have yet to be discovered.

The findings:

  • Based on the rate of discovery of new species, there are about 540,000 species (ranging from 320,000-760,000).
  • Based on the experience of the experts and a projection of the actual number of species found in sampled areas, the number of species ranges from 704,000 to 972,000
  • Either way, the calculations reveal that we only know about 1/3 of the species in existence
  • There were about 170,000 cases where one species was classified under two or more different names

“Bringing together the leading taxonomists around the world to pool their information has been the great merit of this research,” said Enrique Macpherson, a researcher at the Center for Advanced Studies of Blanes.

Coral reef.

Coral reef. Photo credit: World Resources via photopin cc

To learn more:

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 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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