Scientists identify two new species of extinct corals

December 9th, 2008 - 4:40 pm ICT by ANI  

Washington, Dec 9 (ANI): Scientists have identified two new species of extinct corals, which provide an important link between corals in the Atlantic and Pacific.

The corals - Isopora curcaoensis and Isopora ginsburgi, were found by Dr. Ann F. Budd from the University of Iowa and Dr. Donald McNeill of the University of Miami.

The new species was originally thought to be an elkhorn coral (genus Acropora), a species widely distributed throughout the Caribbean that was informally christened Acropora ginsburgi in 1995.

Still having great difficulty distinguishing fossil acroporid species, when formally describing the new species, Budd elicited the help of Dr. Carden C. Wallace of the Museum of Tropical Queensland, Australia, who recognized why a positive identification had been so challenging - the genus was not Acropora after all, but a Pacific acroporid genus named Isopora.

Scientists sampled 67 localities around Curacao, Netherlands Antilles and discovered two new species - Isopora ginsburgi and Isopora curacaoensis.

The coral genus Isopora, a sister group of the modern dominant Acropora, until now was only known from the Pliocene to Recent of the Indo-Pacific.

Study of large collections made systematically throughout the area indicates that Isopora first occurred in the Caribbean during the MioPliocene, at approximately the same time as the origination of many modern Caribbean reef coral dominants including Acropora cervicornis, the well known staghorn coral.

The occurrences of Isopora reported in this study are the oldest records of Isopora worldwide, and are important for understanding the biogeographic separation between reef coral faunas in the Caribbean and Indo-Pacific regions.

We now know that Isopora last occurred in the region during the late Pliocene, a million years ago as part of a pulse of extinction, in which several genera that live today in the Indo-Pacific became extinct in the Caribbean, said Budd.

This research has further illuminated that these corals co-occurred with the two abundant modern Caribbean species of elkhorn and staghorn corals Acropora, often living side-by-side with the two newly-evolved common Caribbean reef corals, he added. (ANI)

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