>> Friday, March 6, 2009
NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) found new deep sea corals. In fact, they found seven new species while on a mission at Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument. Six of them may be entirely new genera.
The discovery is very exciting because corals of any kind have the tendency to be the basis fore any marine ecosystem. They are also the first ones affected by ocean acidification. Since these bamboo coral produce growth rings like trees, they can tell us a lot about conditions on the ocean floor and how they change.
Also among the discoveries were new coral beds and a large sponge dubbed the "cauldron sponge." It was about one meter across and tall. Other sponges were discovered as well and may also represent new genera. There were also coral graveyards found with dead coral of a variety that had never been documented in Hawaii before.
Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument is very studied because it is the largest preserve (US Protected) of ocean floor that is below SCUBA depth. 98% of it is "deep water" and must be reached by submersibles. This is an exciting year for deep sea discoveries and it's only March!
Photo courtesy of NOAA.