September 19, 2008

New Species Found Along Aussie Reefs

Australian researchers said hundreds of new coral and crustacean species have been discovered on the Great Barrier and Ningaloo reefs.

The Census of Marine Life was a four-year effort led by the Australian Institute of Marine Science to record the diversity of life in and around the renowned reefs.

Researchers uncovered about 300 soft coral species -- up to half of them thought to be new to science. They also found dozens of small crustacean species, a rarely sampled amphipod called Maxillipiidae, and a new species of tanaid crustaceans, shrimp-like animals, some with claws longer than their bodies. AIMS said scores of tiny amphipod crustaceans were also recorded.

"Corals face threats ranging from ocean acidification, pollution and warming to overfishing and starfish outbreaks," Ian Poiner, head of AIMS, said in a release. "Only by establishing a baseline of biodiversity and following through with later censuses can people know the impact of those threats and find clues to mitigate them."