findings and happenings of note in the marine world
Moorea under the scope
It’s the sort of quest that Charles Darwin might have
conceived: to catalog every living species on a tropical island in the South Pacific, including those in the seas surrounding it. Indeed, Darwin himself might have selected
Moorea, French Polynesia, as his target, having viewed
its jagged peaks rising out of blue waters—a sight that inspired his early theories on the formation of islands and
the role of reef-building stony corals in creating atolls.
The three-year Moorea Biocode Project has set out
to inventory the DNA sequences of all non-microbial
aquatic and terrestrial life forms in Moorea, a massive
undertaking calling on the involvement of international
teams of researchers in many disciplines from marine
invertebrate zoology to rainforest botany.
“Nobody has ever sequenced a single place to this
Spectacularly pigmented Saron Shrimp, Saron marmoratus,
collected off moorea, shown from space in a naSa image.
level,” says Gustav Pauley, the team leader for marine in-
vertebrates from the University of Florida and curator of
marine malacology at the University’s Florida Museum
of Natural History. “And nobody has ever investigated
coral reef biodiversity this thoroughly in one place.”
The genetic information collected is part of a whole-
system approach that will be used to study ecological
processes in depth across the entire island. Moorea’s
coral reefs, in particular, are considered crucial indica-
tors of how natural systems respond to climate change.
While entomologists net butterflies in the lush, green