The new database, created by scientists from the University of California at Los Angeles and other institutions, covers about 70% of all animals found in the California Current, off the west coast of North America.

The California Current covers 3,218 km and extends from the Canadian island of Vancouver to the middle of the Baja Peninsula in Mexico. The current brings cold water from the North Pacific Ocean to the west coast of North America and is home to numerous species as the current lifts rich nutrients from the deep waters.

The current supports a large marine ecosystem that is home to a variety of species, from killer whales to abalone.

Now, University of California ecologist Paul Barber and colleagues at the University of California and three other institutions have created a library of DNA barcodes that identify 605 species in the California Current, including 275 that have not previously been cataloged. The database covers about 70% of all animals that live there, including 99.9% of controlled species that are important for conservation and fishing.

Barcodes are a sequence of letters (A, T, C, and G) that describe the unique order of amino acids (adenosine, thymine, cytosine, and guanine) that identify the DNA of each species.

The new database will allow researchers, conservationists and fishing boat owners to gain insight into species and ecosystems, as well as help identify where certain species need additional protection.