Phyletic diversity

Knowledge about species diversity in the open ocean is inadequate (NRC 1995). Many of the latest scientific publications on open oceans are devoted to describing new species; familiar species, thought to be robust, are revealing a much more complex nature when analyzed using molecular tools. The biomonitoring workhorse, Mytilus edulis, is in fact at least three different species and not one (McDonald et al. 1992), and the polychaete Capitella capitata, once thought to be a single cosmopolitan species, is in fact a complex of at least 15 different taxa (Grassle 1980). Approximately 15% of currently described species arc marine, and a rough calculation suggests that about 2% are found in the open ocean (Groombridge 1992). Recent sampling of deep-sea benthic communities has revealed a much higher number of undiscovered taxa than anticipated (Sanders 1968, 1977; Sanders and Hessler 1969; Grassie et al. 1991; Poore and Wilson 1993; Poore et al. 1994), pushing up estimates of marine biodiversity substantially (Grassle et al. 1991; Angel 1993). If these estimates are correct, the deep-sea benthos will be one of the most diverse ecosystems in the world (but see Briggs 1994).

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