New bamboo coral species discovered off Hawaii

From Associated Press:

Mar 5, 9:19 PM EST

New species of bamboo coral identified off Hawaii

HONOLULU — Scientists have identified seven new species of bamboo coral discovered thousands of feet below the ocean’s surface, officials said Thursday.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said the six of the seven species found off Hawaii may represent entirely new genera, calling it a “remarkable feat” given the broad classification a genus represents.

A genus is a major category in the classification of organisms, ranking above a species and below a family.

University of Hawaii scientist Christopher Kelley, one of two scientists who found the coral, said the “potential for more discoveries is high.”

Scientists expect to identify more new species as analysis of samples continues.

Richard Spinrad, NOAA’s assistant administrator for oceanic and atmospheric research, said the discoveries are important because deep-sea corals support diverse sea floor ecosystems and their growth rings, like ones from trees, can provide views of how deep-ocean conditions change.

He said the corals “may be among the first marine organisms to be affected by ocean acidification,” which is a change in ocean chemistry due to excess carbon dioxide.

The coral was discovered among the islands of Papahanaumokuakea Marine National Monument using a submersible research vessel in 2007. The three-week research mission was to locate and predict locations of high density deep-sea coral beds in the national monument.

The same mission also found a large coral graveyard. Scientists estimate the death occurred several thousand years to potentially more than 1 million years ago. The species of coral had never been recorded in Hawaii before.

Scientists do not know why the coral died.

See also here.

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