Seven new species of bamboo coral discovered in Hawaii’’s deep waters

March 8th, 2009 - 1:06 pm ICT by ANI  

Washington, March 8 (ANI): Scientists have identified seven new species of bamboo coral in the deep waters of the Papahanaumokuakea Marine National Monument, in Hawaii, US, among which six may represent an entirely new genera. A genus is a major category in the classification of organisms, ranking above a species and below a family. Scientists expect to identify more new species as analysis of samples continues. “These discoveries are important, because deep-sea corals support diverse seafloor ecosystems and also because these corals may be among the first marine organisms to be affected by ocean acidification,” said Richard Spinrad, NOAA’’s assistant administrator for Oceanic and Atmospheric Research. “Deep-sea bamboo corals also produce growth rings much as trees do, and can provide a much-needed view of how deep ocean conditions change through time,” he added. Ocean acidification is a change in ocean chemistry due to excess carbon dioxide. Researchers have seen adverse changes in marine life with calcium-carbonate shells, such as corals, because of acidified ocean water. According to Rob Dunbar, a Stanford University scientist,”We found live, 4,000-year-old corals in the Monument - meaning 4,000 years worth of information about what has been going on in the deep ocean interior.” “Studying these corals can help us understand how they survive for such long periods of time, as well as how they may respond to climate change in the future,” he said. Among the other findings were a five-foot tall yellow bamboo coral tree that had never been described before, new beds of living deepwater coral and sponges, and a giant sponge scientists dubbed the “cauldron sponge,” approximately three feet tall and three feet across. Analysis is not yet complete on the cauldron sponge, but scientists expect it will turn out to be a new species. Scientists collected two other sponges which have not yet been analyzed, but may represent new species or genera as well. This orange bamboo coral is another new species and new genus found in the Papahanaumokuakea Marine National Monument. It is between four and five feet tall, and was found 5,745 feet below the surface. (ANI)

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