Number of marine species

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The total number of marine species known to us is 212,000 (+/- 29%) species, however, it is estimated that there are 1.4 -1.6 million marine species on earth (Bouchet, 2006.[1]) The reason for the huge range in the estimated number of species is the lack of information on the diversity of some of the smaller organisms on Earth. For example, in the ocean, there is a plenty of information on marine mammals (seals, whales, dolphins, porpoises) and fish, while only recently are scientists beginning to understand the extreme diversity present in micro-organisms such as bacteria and phytoplankton (i.e. the plants of the sea). In Europe alone it is estimated that there are 41,000 - 56,000 species present (5,000 - 20,000 have yet to be identified!). There are 1,000 - 1,500 new marine species identifed each year!


  1. Bouchet, P. (2006). The magnitude of marine biodiversity, in: Duarte, C. (Ed.) (2006). The exploration of marine biodiversity: scientific and technological challenges. pp. 31-62