WoRMS released the 2023 top ten new marine species

On March 19, The World Register of Marine Species (WoRMS), an initiative hosted by VLIZ, LifeWatch Belgium‘s focal point, released the top ten marine species described by researchers in 2023, coinciding with World Taxonomist Appreciation Day. The list highlights about 2,000 new marine species discovered each year. In 2023, WoRMS added almost 2,000 marine species, including some 330 fossils.

In December 2023, World Register of Marine Species sent an invitation for nominations to editors of WoRMS and major taxonomy journals. The invitation was also posted on the WoRMS website and social media, allowing anyone to nominate their favourite marine species described in 2023. These nominations could also include marine fossils.

The 2024 Top Ten list
A committee of volunteers, including taxonomists and data managers, reviewed nominations and selected final candidates. The list of selected species is not hierarchical:

  • Falkor’s Carnivorous Sponge, Abyssocladia falkor
  • The Bifrost Nemertean, Tetranemertes bifrost
  • Solwarawarriors vestimentiferan, Alaysia solwarawarriors
  • Hannan’s Pygmy Squid, Kodama jujutsu
  • The Samoan Nautilus, Nautilus samoaensis
  • Prince Albert’s Sea Daisy, Xyloplax princealberti
  • Bouchet’s Dorymenia, Dorymenia boucheti
  • Fine Line Nudibranch, Halgerda scripta
  • Fordyce’s Giant Penguin, Kumimanu fordycei
  • St. George’s Cross Medusa, Santjordia pagesi

The final selections showcase a variety of taxonomic groups found in the marine environment, such as crustaceans, corals, sponges, jellyfish, and worms. They also shed light on the challenges faced by the marine environment today. The chosen candidates feature astonishing and scientifically significant marine creatures that appeal to the public. Each of these marine species has a unique story, and this year’s chosen species include some of the weirdest and most astonishing creatures found in the ocean, such as a beautifully coloured nemertean, a carnivorous sponge, and a giant extinct penguin. Taxonomists collect, identify, and name new species every day. Over 300 taxonomists also maintain the World Register of Marine Species.

About the top-ten list of Marine Species
The WoRMS Top Ten Marine Species 2023 would not have been possible without the collaboration between the WoRMS Data Management Team (DMT), the WoRMS Top Ten Decision Committee, the WoRMS Steering Committee (SC), and the voluntary contributions of many of the WoRMS editors.
The Top Ten Lists initiative started in 2007. Please visit this page to learn about the 2023 Top Ten List and previous years’ lists.

What WoRMS does
WoRMS – the World Register of Marine Species – compiles a comprehensive list of all marine organisms and their synonyms. It provides valid and other names to help interpret taxonomic literature. Over 245,000 marine species have been described and managed by more than 300 scientists worldwide. WoRMS is a service provided by LifeWatch Belgium.

The cover image was taken by Merrick Ekins and shows the holotype and paratype of Abyssocladia falkor, a new carnivorous sponge from the Great Barrier Reef, Queensland, Australia, collected by the ROV FALKOR. The original online source can be found at https://doi.org/10.11646/zootaxa.5293.3.2

New project MARCO-BOLO just launched!

MARCO-BOLO Kick-off Meeting

A new EU project has been launched to improve how biodiversity is recorded and protected in marine and coastal environments. Funded by the Horizon Europe programme, MARCO-BOLO (MARine Coastal BiOdiversity Long-term Observations) will structure and strengthen European coastal and marine biodiversity observation capabilities, linking them to global efforts to understand and restore ocean health. It is coordinated by the EMBRC and comprises an expert team of 28 partner institutions from 14 countries, among which LifeWatch ERIC.

Coastal add marine areas are incredibly dynamic and productive oceanic regions, providing significant resources and services for both wildlife and people. They are also subject to intense pressures from agricultural and industry pollution in waterways, dredging, and building development. Many national and regional programmes assess environmental health and human impact on our coasts, but these programmes are often fragmented, short term, and uncoordinated at larger scales.

MARCO-BOLO will address this problem by connecting existing initiatives, optimising and improving methods, and further innovating technologies for biodiversity observations. The project aims to deliver a transformative change in how marine biodiversity is monitored and managed. The research team will engage with diverse stakeholders to tailor research and observation data for direct use, delivering practical tools that will allow politicians and companies to determine biodiversity health, predict changes, monitor changes from imposed policies and proactively manage environments and their biodiversity.

The project has four key objectives:

  • Improve acquisition, coordination and delivery of marine, coastal and freshwater biodiversity observations to relevant users.
  • Enable technologies for cost-effective, timely and accurate biodiversity observations.
  • Test new tools, technologies and models to better understand biodiversity decline.
  • Empower European biodiversity observatory operators, data producers and users by creating and sharing best practice guidelines for gathering and using biodiversity data to contribute to biodiversity restoration efforts.

MARCO-BOLO’s innovations will address the full pipeline of data collection and use: from testing new monitoring tools using eDNA, robotics, optical and acoustic techniques, to data integration methods for environmental modelling, and guidance on how data can be stored, shared and applied in policy contexts.

Project coordinator Nicolas Pade from European Marine Biological Resource Centre (EMBRC) said:

“We need good data to protect and restore biodiversity effectively. By engaging with policy and decision makers throughout the project, we will ensure that our tools and techniques will support lasting, positive change in how we monitor and protect marine and coastal biodiversity in Europe and internationally.”

For more information, follow @MARCOBOLO_EU or visit marcobolo-project.eu.

Stepping Closer to Biodiversity 2030 with Biodiversa+

Data Interoperability

On 1 September, alongside 37 other participants, LifeWatch ERIC took part in the Data Interoperability and Harmonisation workshop organised by Biodiversa+, with a presentation from LifeWatch ERIC Web Portal Officer, Lucia Vaira. During her presentation, she gave an overview of the EOSC Interoperability Framework in technical, semantic, organisational and legal terms, explaining the (Meta)data structure and workflows within LifeWatch ERIC, along with the status and main challenges of interoperability within the Infrastructure.

Biodiversa+ is the European Biodiversity Partnership supporting excellent research on biodiversity with an impact for society and policy. It was jointly developed by BiodivERsA and the European Commission as part of the EU Biodiversity Strategy 2030, and will contribute to the ambition that “by 2030, nature in Europe is back on a path of recovery, and that by 2050 people are living in harmony with Nature”. The Commission recognises that it is vital to make biodiversity data more accessible in order to make faster progress in this research area and achieve the objectives of the EU Biodiversity Strategy.

Lucia Vaira touched on many important topics in her presentation, demonstrating not only key openly-accessible LifeWatch ERIC tools such as the Metadata Catalogue and EcoPortal, but explaining the importance of interoperability to the Infrastructure: In light of the FAIR principles, interoperability essentially means that “research data need to be integrated with other data; and need to interoperate with applications or workflows for analysis, storage, and processing”, principles which are always held in consideration during the development of the Infrastructure’s tools. After all, interoperability is essential to enable the seamless combination of all LifeWatch ERIC’s assets, providing added value for the final users. You can access the full presentation here.

Other speakers at the event included Alberto Basset – Italian Ministry of Universities and Research, Hilde Eggermont – BelSPO, Dani Villero Pi and Nestor Fernandez – EuropaBON, Tim Hirsc – GBIF, and Sujeevan Ratnasingham and Rutger Vos – BIOSCAN/iBOL, with whom a fruitful discussion was held on how Biodiversa+ can help achieve effective data interoperability. LifeWatch ERIC is honoured to participate in opportunities to nurture and maintain multilateral dialogue within the European Research Area to support the EU Biodiversity 2030 Strategy, in line with its mandate to enhance understanding, linkages and synergies between biodiversity loss and other societal challenges. Increased interoperability with other biodiversity databases through the support of Biodiversa+ facilitates the Infrastructure in its mission to mobilise and integrate data and algorithms for biodiversity and ecosystem research.