An ocean away: Two new encrusting anemones found in unexpected locations

Nov 29, 2012
This is Neozoanthus caleyi on the Great Barrier Reef, Australia. Credit: Gary Cranitch

As a result of field work by associate professor James Davis Reimer and two graduate students from the University of the Ryukyus in Okinawa, Japan has found two new species of encrusting anemones, or colonial zoanthids, in unexpected locations. The species belong to the genus Neozoanthus, which was previously known only from a single species in the Indian Ocean. Surprisingly, the new species were found in the Pacific Ocean, in southern Japan and on the Great Barrier Reef, Australia. The study was published in the open access journal ZooKeys.

The only previous species of Neozoanthus was described in 1972 from Madagascar, and subsequently it was not seen for almost 40 years, until recent research had ascertained that new Pacific specimens likely belonged to Neozoanthus (Reimer et al. 2011, in the journal Marine Biology). The new study formally describes these new specimens as two species.

This is Neozoanthus uchina in Okinawa, Japan. Credit: Masami Obuchi

The members of this genus are small, with individual no more than 6 mm in diameter, and have red, gray, blue or purple oral discs; all inhabit in areas with strong currents and some siltation. Both new species and the species from Madagascar contain symbiotic, photosynthetic, single-celled algae that can provide them with .

"We were very surprised in 2008 to discover Neozoanthus in the Pacific, in Japan," said Reimer, "and initially thought that perhaps these were very rare." However, further research in southern Japan by graduate students Yuka Irei and Takuma Fujii, co-authors on the new paper, revealed that the Japanese species was locally common. A further surprise came during the Census of Marine Life's Census of Coral Reef Ecosystems (CReefs) surveys on the in 2009 and 2010, when similar encrusting anemones were found thousands of kilometers away from both Madagascar and Japan.

"These findings can be explained by the fact that there are very few zoanthid researchers in the world. These species are not particularly hard to find, but there was no one looking for them," Reimer added. "This research demonstrates how little we know about marine biodiversity, even in regions relatively well researched."

Explore further: Study indicates large raptors in Africa used for bushmeat

More information: Reimer JD, Irei Y, Fujii T (2012) Two new species of Neozoanthus (Cnidaria, Hexacorallia, Zoantharia) from the Pacific. ZooKeys 246: 69. doi: 10.3897/zookeys.246.3886

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

New species discovered on the Great Barrier Reef

Mar 08, 2010

Between the grains of sand on the sea floor there is an unknown and unexplored world. Pierre De Wit at Gothenburg University knows this well, and has found new animal species on the Great Barrier Reef, in ...

Damselfish 'garden' algae

Jun 17, 2010

A species of damselfish, Stegastes nigricans, selectively weed the algal gardens on which they feed in order to encourage the growth of their preferred algal species of Polysiphonia and suppress the growth ...

Low calcification in corals in the Great Barrier Reef

Aug 31, 2012

Reef-building coral communities in the Great Barrier Reef-the world's largest coral reef-may now be calcifying at only about half the rate that they did during the 1970s, although live coral cover may not have changed over ...

Recommended for you

Study indicates large raptors in Africa used for bushmeat

Jul 24, 2014

Bushmeat, the use of native animal species for food or commercial food sale, has been heavily documented to be a significant factor in the decline of many species of primates and other mammals. However, a new study indicates ...

Noise pollution impacts fish species differently

Jul 24, 2014

Acoustic disturbance has different effects on different species of fish, according to a new study from the Universities of Bristol and Exeter which tested fish anti-predator behaviour.

User comments : 0