A mixture of DNA analysis, skeleton examination and ecological
observations has resulted in scientists at the Australian Institute of Marine Science (AIMS) discovering ‘hidden' coral species.
The findings have been published in the Zoological Journal of the Linnean Society.
One of the AIMS researchers, Sebastian Schmidt-Roach said the scientists measured the skeletal structure of the corals and combined the data with genetic and molecular analysis.
Success for AIMS
“Our results indicate that there are likely to be many more species of coral in our oceans, more than we originally thought," Mr Schmidt-Roach said.
He said the team formally revised the taxonomic status of Pocillopora corals, also known as cauliflower corals, found in the Indian and Pacific Oceans. They also reported the discovery of two new species during their studies. Their research included studying corals on the Great Barrier Reef.
Molecular Phylogeneticist at AIMS, Nikos Andreakis said coral species could be very difficult to identify.
“They are not obviously different like most species of mammals. For example, some corals may interbreed with other species of coral (hybridise) and different species can look the same but be very different, genetically and chemically,” Dr Andreakis said.
“That is why information from multiple sources is necessary for studying these animals at a population and species levels."
The scientists have now provided information for the identification of eight Pocillopora species, two of them completely new to science.
The full journal article can be viewed at this PS New link.
A coral colony consisting of the new described species Pocillopora bairdi
(left half), P. meandrina (top right) and P. damicornis (bottom right).
Photo: S Schmidt-Roach