A new cave-dwelling reef coral discovered in the Indo-Pacific

Oct 11, 2012
This is the new coral species living on the ceilings of caves in tropical coral reefs. Credit: Dr. Bert W. Hoeksema / Naturalis

Coral specialist Dr. Bert W. Hoeksema of Naturalis Biodiversity Center in Leiden, The Netherlands, recently published the description of a new coral species that lives on the ceilings of caves in Indo-Pacific coral reefs. It differs from its closest relatives by its small polyp size and by the absence of symbiotic algae, so-called zooxanthellae. Its distribution range overlaps with the Coral Triangle, an area that is famous for its high marine species richness. Marine zoologists of Naturalis visit this area frequently to explore its marine biodiversity.

Reef corals in shallow tropical seas normally need the symbiotic algae for their survival and growth. Without these algae, many would not exist. During periods of elevated , most reef corals lose their algae, which is visible as a dramatic whitening of the reefs, a known as bleaching.

Most reef corals generally do not occur over 40 m depth, a twilight zone where sunlight is not bright anymore, but some species of the genus Leptoseris are exceptional and may even occur much deeper. At greater depths, seawater is generally colder and corals here may be less susceptible to bleaching than those at shallower depths. Despite the lack of zooxanthellae and its small size, the skeleton structures of the new species indicate that it is closely related to these Leptoseris corals, although it has not been found deeper than 35 m so far.

The species is named Leptoseris troglodyta. The word troglodyta is derived from ancient Greek and means "one who dwells in holes", a cave dweller. The discovery sheds new light on the relation of reef corals with . The new species has adapted to a life without them. Consequently, it may not grow fast, which would be convenient because space is limited on cave ceilings. The species description is published in the open access journal ZooKeys.

Explore further: Five anthropogenic factors that will radically alter northern forests in 50 years

More information: Hoeksema BW (2012) Forever in the dark: the cave-dwelling azooxanthellate reef coral Leptoseris troglodyta sp. n. (Scleractinia, Agariciidae). ZooKeys 228: 21. doi: 10.3897/zookeys.228.3798

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Viruses linked to algae that control coral health

Jul 12, 2012

Scientists have discovered two viruses that appear to infect the single-celled microalgae that reside in corals and are important for coral growth and health, and they say the viruses could play a role in ...

Semporna may have richest marine biodiversity in the world

Feb 24, 2011

The preliminary results of the Semporna Marine Ecological Expedition (December 2010) indicate that Semporna may have the world's highest marine biodiversity. The expedition yielded a record number of 43 species of mushroom ...

Depth important in generating reef diversity

Jun 10, 2010

(PhysOrg.com) -- A study by University of Queensland researchers reveals that corals are more adapted to smaller ecological niches than previously thought, and provides new insights into the processes that ...

Fears mount of massive Caribbean coral bleaching: study

Sep 23, 2010

Above-average temperatures this year could spark massive coral bleaching in the Caribbean basin region, experts with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) warned Wednesday after a major ...

Recommended for you

More, bigger wildfires burning western US, study shows

8 hours ago

Wildfires across the western United States have been getting bigger and more frequent over the last 30 years – a trend that could continue as climate change causes temperatures to rise and drought to become ...

User comments : 0

More news stories

There's something ancient in the icebox

Glaciers are commonly thought to work like a belt sander. As they move over the land they scrape off everything—vegetation, soil, and even the top layer of bedrock. So scientists were greatly surprised ...

Clean air: Fewer sources for self-cleaning

Up to now, HONO, also known as nitrous acid, was considered one of the most important sources of hydroxyl radicals (OH), which are regarded as the detergent of the atmosphere, allowing the air to clean itself. ...

China says massive area of its soil polluted

A huge area of China's soil covering more than twice the size of Spain is estimated to be polluted, the government said Thursday, announcing findings of a survey previously kept secret.

Hackathon team's GoogolPlex gives Siri extra powers

(Phys.org) —Four freshmen at the University of Pennsylvania have taken Apple's personal assistant Siri to behave as a graduate-level executive assistant which, when asked, is capable of adjusting the temperature ...

Better thermal-imaging lens from waste sulfur

Sulfur left over from refining fossil fuels can be transformed into cheap, lightweight, plastic lenses for infrared devices, including night-vision goggles, a University of Arizona-led international team ...