A cumulative species description curve (from 1830 to 1995) is given for open water marine fauna in excess of 2 m long in the major axis of the body. This curve has not yet closely approached its asymptote. Estimation by maximum likelihood fit of a hyperbola suggests a maximum of some 47 species awaiting formal scientific description and an approximate current rate of description of one new species every 5·3 years. Consideration of the most recently described species and recent observations by field workers suggests that any imminent species descriptions are most likely to be cetaceans.
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