10 coral species may vanish within 50 years

January 12th, 2011 - 4:44 pm ICT by IANS  

London, Jan 12 (IANS) Scientists have identified 10 coral species that are the most endangered and may vanish within 50 years.Led by experts at London Zoo, the Edge Coral Reefs project has prioritised the most evolutionarily distinct and globally endangered species that conservationists fear will die out in the next 50 years.

Among those singled out as urgently in need of conservation are the crisp pillow coral, which resembles a brain, and the elegance coral, which has glowing tubular tentacles.

Current worst case predictions suggest that tropical coral reefs, which have evolved over millions of years, will be functionally extinct within the next 30 to 50 years, the Daily Mail reports.

Saving these species could hold the key to the future adaptation of coral reefs to climate change, the scientists said at the project’s launch Wednesday.

The other species prioritised include the pearl bubble coral, which is a favoured food source of the hawksbill turtle, and the mushroom coral, which supports at least 15 brightly-coloured shrimp, including the popcorn shrimp.

The species are found in some of the world’s most famous coral reefs, from the Great Barrier Reef off Australia to the waters surrounding the Chagos Archipelago of Mauritius in the Indian Ocean.

These prehistoric ecosystems have been around for 400 million years and support one third of all marine life, despite only inhabiting 0.2 percent of the ocean floor.

Heather Koldewey of London Zoo said: “Corals are one of the most threatened groups of animals on our planet and iconic flagships of the marine environment.”

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