The Magnitude of Global Marine Species Diversity


Ward Appeltans, Flanders Marine Institute
Shane T. Ahyong, University of New South Wales
Gary Anderson, University of Southern MississippiFollow
Martin V. Angel, National Oceanography Centre
Tom Artois, Hasselt University
Nicolas Bailly, Worldfish Center
Roger Bamber, ARTOO Marine Biology ConsultantsFollow
Anthony Barber, British Myriapod and Isopod Group
Ilse Bartsch, Research Institute and Natural History Museum
Annalisa Berta, San Diego State University
Magdalena Błażewicz-Paszkowycz, University of Łódź
Phil Bock, Museum Victoria
Geoff Boxshall, Natural History Museum
Christopher B. Boyko, Dowling College
Simone Nunes Brandão, University of Hamburg
Rod A. Bray, Natural History Museum, London
Niel L. Bruce, University of Johannesburg
Stephen D. Cairns, Smithsonian Institution
Tin-Yam Chan, National Marine Fisheries Service
Lanna Cheng, Scripps Institution of Oceanography
Allen G. Collins, NOAA, National Marine Fisheries Service
Thomas Cribb, University of Queenland
Marco Curini-Galletti, Universitá di Sassari
Dennis P. Gordon, National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research
Michael D. Guiry, National University of Ireland, Dublin
Francisco Hernandez, Flanders Marine Institute
Bert W. Hoeksema, Naturalis Biodiversity Center
Russell R. Hopcroft, University of Alaska, Fairbanks
Damiá Jaume, Universitat de les Illes Balears
Paul Kirk, CABI Bioservices
Nico Koedam, Vrije Universiteit Brussel
Stefan Koenemann, University of Siegen
Jürgen B. Kolb, Massey University
Reinhardt M. Kristensen, University of Copenhagen
Andreas Kroh, Natural History Museum Vienna
Gretchen Lambert, University of Washington
David B. Lazarus, Museum für Naturkunde
Rafael Lamaitre, Smithsonian Institution
Matt Longshaw, Weymouth Laboratory
Jim Lowry, Australian Museum
Enrique Macpherson, Centro de Estudios Avanzados
Laurence P. Madin, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution
Christopher Mah, Smithsonian Institution
Gill Mapstone, Natural History Museum, London
Patsy A. McLaughlin, Western Washington University
Jan Mees, Ghent University
Kenneth Meland, University of Bergen
Charles G. Messing, Nova Southeastern University
Claudia E. Mills, University of Washington
Tina N. Molodtsova, Russian Academy of Sciences
Rich Mooi, California Academy of Sciences
Birger Nehaus, Museum für Naturkunde
Peter K.L. Ng, National University of SIngapore
Claus Nielsen, University of Copenhagen
Jon Norenburg, Smithsonian Institution
Dennis M. Opresko, Smithsonian Institution
Masayuki Osawa, Shimane University
Gustav Paulay, Florida Museum of Natural History
William Perrin, NOAA, National Marine Fisheries Service
John F. Pilger, Agnes Scott College
Gary C.B. Poore, Museum Victoria
Phil Pugh, National Oceanography Centre
Geoffrey B. Read, National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research
James D. Reimer, University of Ryukyus
Marc Rius, University of California-Davis
Rosana M. Roch, Universidade Federal de Paraná
José I. Saiz-Salinas, University of the Basque Country
Victor Scarabino, Museo Nacional de Historia Natural
Bernd Schierwater, University of Veterinary Medicine Hanover
Andreas Schmidt-Rhaesa, University of Hamburg
Kareen E. Schnabel, National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research
Marilyn Schotte, Smithsonian Institution
Peter Schuchert, Muséum d'Histoire Naturelle
Enrico Schwabe, Bavarian State Collection of Zoology
Hendrik Segers, Royal Belgian Institute of Natural Sciences
Caryn Self-Sullivan, Nova Southeastern University
Noa Shenkar, Tel Aviv University
Volker Siegel, Institute for Sea Fisheries
Wolfgang Sterrer, Bermuda Natural History Museum
Sabine Stöhr, Swedish Museum of Natural History
Billie Swalla, University of Washington
Mark L. Tasker, Joint Nature Conservation Committee
Erik V. Theusen, Evergreen State College
Tarmo Timm, Estonian University of Life Sciences
M. Antonio Todaro, Universitá di Modena e Reggio Emilia
Xavier Turon, Centro de Estudios Avanzados de Blanes
Seth Tyler, University of Maine
Peter Uetz, Virginia Commonwealth University
Jacob van der Land, Naturalis Biodiversity Center
Bart Vanhoorne, Flanders Marine Institute
Leen P. van Ofwegen, Naturalis Biodiversity Center
Rob W.M. van Soest, Naturalis Biodiversity Center
Jan Vanaverbeke, Ghent University
Genefor Walker-Smith, Museum Victoria
T. Chad Walter, Smithsonian Institution
Alan Warren, Natural History Museum, London
Gary C. Williams, California Academy of Sciences
Simon P. Wilson, Trinity College Dublin
Mark J. Costello, University of Auckland

Document Type


Publication Date



Biological Sciences



The question of how many marine species exist is important because it provides a metric for how much we do and do not know about life in the oceans. We have compiled the first register of the marine species of the world and used this baseline to estimate how many more species, partitioned among all major eukaryotic groups, may be discovered.


There are ∼226,000 eukaryotic marine species described. More species were described in the past decade (∼20,000) than in any previous one. The number of authors describing new species has been increasing at a faster rate than the number of new species described in the past six decades. We report that there are ∼170,000 synonyms, that 58,000–72,000 species are collected but not yet described, and that 482,000–741,000 more species have yet to be sampled. Molecular methods may add tens of thousands of cryptic species. Thus, there may be 0.7–1.0 million marine species. Past rates of description of new species indicate there may be 0.5 ± 0.2 million marine species. On average 37% (median 31%) of species in over 100 recent field studies around the world might be new to science.


Currently, between one-third and two-thirds of marine species may be undescribed, and previous estimates of there being well over one million marine species appear highly unlikely. More species than ever before are being described annually by an increasing number of authors. If the current trend continues, most species will be discovered this century.

Publication Title

Current Biology





First Page


Last Page


Find in your library