Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Rare marine species discovered in Philippines

A French-led marine expedition has discovered thousands of new species of crustaceans and mollusks in waters around the central Philippines. The discovery was made by the Panglao Marine Biodiversity Project, which has been conducting "an intensive inventory" of the complex coastal ecosystem off Panglao island for the past two years. Some 80 scientists, students and volunteers from 19 countries took part in the ground-breaking research."Numerous species were observed and photographed alive, many for the first time," the scientists, led by Philippe Bouchet, of the Museum National d'Histoire Naturelle in France, said in a statement."It is estimated that 150-250 of the crustaceans and 1,500-2,500 of the mollusks are new species," the statement said."To put it in perspective, the whole decapod crustacean (shrimp or prawn) fauna of Japan barely exceeds 1,600 species."The Mediterranean (300 million hectares) has 340 species of decapods and 2,024 species of mollusks," the statement said. Some 50 species were presented to the Philippine National Museum on Monday.Bouchet said data was collected using both academic and traditional methods such as dredging and trawling, diving and deep-water nets which Panglao fishermen traditionally use.Bouchet said the international science expedition in Panglao is the most comprehensive coral reef mollusk survey ever undertaken worldwide.To push the research forward, the French embassy has announced a five-year programme to explore the deep-water fauna of the Philippines titled "Census of Philippines Deep-Sea Biodiversity."The embassy said that, with a total of 80 participants from the Philippines, other ASEAN countries, Europe and the United States, the Panglao Marine Biodiversity Project was the most comprehensive survey of deep-sea invertebrates ever conducted anywhere in the tropics.

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