December 9, 2008

Two coral finds link Atlantic, Pacific

The discovery of two species of coral once thought to be extinct provide an important link between the Atlantic and Pacific oceans, U.S. scientists said.

The U.S. scientists -- Ann Budd from the University of Iowa and Donald McNeill of the University of Miami -- and Carden Wallace of the Museum of Tropical Queensland, Australia, sampled 67 locations around Curacao, Netherlands Antilles, and found the Isopora ginsburgi and Isopora curacaoensis. Until the discovery, the coral genus Isopora was only known from the Pliocene to Recent periods of the Indo-Pacific, the University of Miami said in a news release.

Researchers said the occurrences of Isopora reported are the oldest records of Isopora worldwide, and key to understanding the bio-geographic separation between reef coral life 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 ... often living side-by-side with the two newly evolved common Caribbean reef corals.