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New species of red coral discovered

The recently discovered species, Psammogorgia hookeri, was discovered along rocky ledges by scuba divers at depths of 25 meters (82 feet) in Peru's Paracas National Reserve.
Credit:   Yuri Hooker
The corals' hand-sized colonies are slightly smaller than the colonies of their closest relative.
Smithsonian | Journal of the Marine Biological Association of the United Kingdom  |  Firey-Red Coral Species Discovered in the Peruvian Pacific, Smithsonian Reports    |   02-13-2014
The corals' hand-sized colonies are slightly smaller than the colonies of their closest relative.
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This new species may be an endemic: found nowhere else in the world. But coral reefs and coral communities in Peru have never been systematically studied. We expect more surprises as we look at new collections.

—Hector M. Guzman, marine biologist at the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute.

Odalisca Breedy, lead author of the new species report in the Journal of the Maritime Biological Association of the United Kingdom, and Hector M. Guzman, marine biologist at the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute are experts in soft coral taxonomy and ecology.

To date, they have discovered nearly 25 new species of soft coral in the Pacific. Their new species was identified based on colony characteristics and examinations of the coral using both light and scanning-electron microscopy.

Breedy and Guzman compared the new samples with specimens at Peru’s Ocean Institute, IMARPE and at the Yale Peabody Museum of Natural History. Most of the museum specimens were more than 90 years old, because no one has collected in this area in recent times.

"As we move across the eastern Pacific, we realize that our knowledge about soft corals still is poor,” said Breedy. Both scientists agree that “We need to continue exploring new shallow and deep water sites but funding is always a limiting factor."

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