The finds have raised the number of life-forms found in the world’s oceans to about 230,000.

They include a gold-speckled and red-striped goby fish, found in Guam’s waters, that somehow lives in partnership with a snapping shrimp at its tail.

While the goby stands sentinel, the shrimps digs a burrow that both use for shelter.

Another surprise for biologists was a colony of rhodoliths, a coral-like marine algae, found in Prince William Sound in Alaska.

The hard, red plants, which resemble toy jacks, roll like tumbleweeds, or like Australian roly-polies, in the beds used as nurseries by shrimp and scallops.

Those in charge of the Census of Marine Life, now four years into a planned 10 year count, say the rate of discovery shows no sign of slowing, even in European and other waters heavily studied in the past.

About 1,000 scientists in 70 countries are now participating, up from 300 scientists in 53 countries just a year earlier.

“In general, the smaller the animals are in the ocean, the more poorly known they are,” said Frederick Grassle, chairman of the project’s scientific steering committee and director of Rutgers University’s Institute of Marine & Coastal Sciences.

This is the second consecutive year in which scientists have reported findings since the project began in May 2000.

The part of the census dealing with microbes, the smallest organisms, is just starting.

Once that part is done, scientists believe they will find that the oceans extending across 70 percent of the earth’s surface hold 20,000 species of fish and up to 1.98 million species of animals and plants, many of them small, basic life-forms like worms and jellyfish.

Studying the genomes, or genetic codes, of the species will “lead to the past history, the past evolution of life in the oceans, which goes back way before the fossil record three-and-a-half billion years,” Grassle said.

So far, scientists have described 15,482 marine fish species, up from 15,304 a year ago.

The number of animals and plants is up to about 214,500, several hundred more than last year, but scientists say they do not have an exact number for that.

So far, about $US125 million or $A159.58 million has been spent on the census.

Its price tag eventually is expected to reach $US1 billion or $A1.28 billion, most of it from participating governments.