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Great Barrier Reef

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Great Barrier Reef

Carmella Terrones, Journalist

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Nearly 200 species of the Great Barrier Reef corals have found a second home in the deep ocean. That’s six times as many species as previously thought to be living in the dark, cold water in Australia. Perhaps more important than the number of species cataloged at those depths is the fact that every evolutionary family of reef-building coral is represented,offering a potential boon of conservation efforts.

“The deep reef is a lot more diverse and interesting than we thought,” says coauthor Paul Muir, a coral biologist at the Museum of Tropical Queensland in Townsville,  Australia. “It’s a bit of a good news story, and there aren’t many of those around at the moment.” As the climate makes a change, some ocean waters will get warmer. Corals are experiencing more frequent and severe bleaching events than they did just a few decades ago. Scientists are trying to learn which species might be able to survive, and where they could survive, as ocean conditions change.

From 2010 to 2016, Muir and his colleagues samoled 1,263 corals at depths between 30 meters to 125 meters. That range falls within a region called the mesophotic zone because it receives relatively little sunlight. From those samples, as well as museum specimens and other data, the team identified 195 coral species living in this zone, most of which were previously thought  to inhabit only shallow waters.

The finding provides support for the “deep reef refugia” hypothesis, the hotly debated idea that deep ocean corals are somewhat protected from the effects of climate change and could one day help damaged shallow water reefs.

 

1 Comment

One Response to “Great Barrier Reef”

  1. dorrie jacobson on January 11th, 2019 2:50 pm

    Nice Article!

If you want a picture to show with your comment, go get a gravatar.




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