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The Plankton Schooner

The results from a research vessel that collected plankton samples from the world's oceans are starting to pour in, revealing an impressive level of previously undiscovered biodiversity.

Cristina Luiggi

The first analyses of plankton collected by Tara, a research schooner that sailed across the globe collecting water samples, suggest that the world's oceans harbor some 1.5 million different plankton taxa, many of which are currently unknown to science, ScienceNOW reported. Planktonic diversity is an "almost virgin field," Eric Karsenti, a molecular biologist at European Molecular Biology Laboratory and the project’s co-director, said last week (July 12) at the Euroscience Open Forum, a biennial science and policy meeting.

Known as the Tara Oceans, the year-long expedition returned to port in Lorient, France, at the end of March, and already, preliminary analyses of the samples collected has turned up hundreds of thousands of organisms, including bacteria, archaea, protists, metazoans, viruses, and fish larvae. In total, the team collected samples from 153 different locations, from the water surface to depths of nearly 1 kilometer. The preliminary results focus on 27,000...

Samples from the other 118 locations are likely to bring even more insight into the oceans’ smallest creatures, and Karsenti says he hopes that the expedition will raise awareness about ocean science in general.

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