12/19/2010 03:40

First world “census” of marine life to take place in Jerusalem, with 3,000 scientists from 80 countries participating.

Some 1,200 new species and varieties have been discovered during the just-concluded first world “census” of marine life.

The director of the census, Jesse Ausubel, will participate in a conference on Monday at the Israel Academy of Sciences and the Humanities in Jerusalem. The occasion will also be marked by the screening there of Oceans, completed last year, which is considered one of the greatest nature films ever made.

The 10-year-census cost $370 million, and 3,000 scientists from 80 countries – including three Israelis – participated in it.

The Israeli conference was initiated and will be chaired by Prof. Alex Keinan, an adviser to academy president Prof. Ruth Arnon.

Keinan notes that while the creatures that live on land have been studied since the Renaissance, the sea and its bottom had never been studied systematically until now. The Jerusalem meeting will be held to show biologists who specialize in animal life, and scientists in general, the findings and huge unpublished database that resulted from the decade-long work.

Among the crabs, fish, worms and other “new” creatures that have been discovered is the first multi-cell organism to be identified that can live without oxygen. It was found on the bottom of the Mediterranean Sea south of Crete by an Italian scientist. Sea plants, fish and bacteria unknown until now were also discovered.

Ausubel, who is director of the program for the human environment at Rockefeller University in Manhattan and program director for the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, has played major roles in the formulation of both the US and world climate research programs.