19 September 2008

Hundreds of new species found in "waters that divers access easily and regularly"

Soft corals were among the biggest, most colorful creatures surveyed in three expeditions to Lezard and Heron islands, and Ningaloo Reef of the Great Barrier Reef.

Many such corals were previously unrecorded, despite the fact that divers regularly visit the reef sites surveyed. "People have been swimming past these big, showy animals for years."
from the Census of Marine LifeSee the Census of Marine Life gallery for more photos.

What was found from a closer look?

  • 300 soft coral species, half of which are believed new to science
  • Dozens of small crustacean species, 40 and 60 percent of the tiny amphipod crustaceans listed will be formally described for the first time.
  • Potentially new polychaetes, as many as two-thirds were believed new to science.
Some other interesting highlights
One sampling method the Australian scientists used was to cut the base off dead coral heads, which were presumed to contain no living creature, but revealed more than 150 crustaceans, molluscs and echinoderms.

The scientists said that globally dead coral heads host many thousands of species and are emerging as an important tool for assessing coral reef biodiversity.
It really does pay to look at our reefs and shores, even if they are regularly visited already.
"Hundreds of thousands of forms of life remain to be discovered," O'Dor said.

"Knowledge of this ocean diversity matters on many levels, including possibly human health. One of these creatures may have properties of enormous value to humanity."
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