New Soft Coral Species Discovered In Panama

Posted: Sep 16 2018, 4:57pm CDT | by , Updated: Sep 16 2018, 5:03pm CDT, in Latest Science News


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New Soft Coral Species Discovered in Panama
DeepSea submersible collects coral sample. Credit: Héctor Guzmán

The soft coral species was spotted in the low-light reef environment of Hannibal Bank seamount.

A new species of soft coral has been collected by DeepSea submersible from Hannibal Bank seamount in Panama. Hannibal Bank is a large, poorly explored underwater mountain that is part of Panama's protected Coiba National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The new, blood red soft coral or octocoral species was discovered in the low-light reef environment of Hannibal Bank. The area is located 60 kilometers off mainland Pacific Panama.

New species, named Thesea dalioi, belongs to genus Thesea. The new coral is distinguished from other species of this genus by its physical traits like branch thickness and distinct red color. Genus Thesea has only one other species in the eastern Pacific called T. variabilis. It was not until recently that researchers explored the depths of Hannibal Bank to find more species.

“After just two expeditions using submersibles down to 300 meters, we have identified 17 species of octocorals for the Hannibal Bank, including the discovery and description of three new species.” Hector M. Guzman, marine ecologist at Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute in Panama (STRI), said in a statement.

Reef systems, such as the one where T. dalioi was found, harbor a wide variety of corals, algae and sponges. But they are generally overlooked due to the fact that these reefs are extremely hard to reach. Researchers also know very little about the processes that shape the high levels of biodiversity in them.

“The present study should provide the basis for further research on the genus and contributes to the diversity and distribution knowledge of octocorals from the mesophotic zone in the eastern Pacific Ocean.” Study co-author and marine biologist Odalisca Breedy from the Centro de Investigación en Ciencias del Mar y Limnología (CIMAR) at the University of Costa Rica said.

Soft corals are visibly different from the other famous coral group called hard coral reefs. Hard corals are characterized by their have hard, calcium-based skeletons. Soft corals, on the other hand, are bendable and look more like plants or trees.

“Medical researchers have identified therapeutic benefits derived from both soft and hard corals such as anti-inflammatory and anti-cancer properties, bone repair and neurological benefits,” said Guzman. “But our ability to contribute to the understanding of soft corals and their habitats, depends not only on steady funding for the use of submersibles, but also on continued ability to obtain permission to work in Coiba National Park.”

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<a href="/latest_stories/all/all/47" rel="author">Hira Bashir</a>
The latest discoveries in science are the passion of Hira Bashir (). With years of experience, she is able to spot the most interesting new achievements of scientists around the world and cover them in easy to understand reporting.




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