Brilliant New Soft Coral Species Discovered, Psammogorgia hookeri

February 17, 2014 by  
Filed under All Posts, Animal News, Aquariums, Corals Mini-Reef

Gorgonians, Sea Fans and Sea WhipsPhoto Courtesy Yuri Hooker Peru Underwater

A beautiful bright red coral species, described as Psammogorgia hookeri, has been found in the Peruvian region of the Eastern Pacific!

It was the brilliant reddish color of this soft coral that first caught the attention of Yuri Hooker in 2002, and he collect the first specimens at that time. Hooker came across it again in 2008 while he was researching marine sponges, and at that time he was able to collect new specimens.

Dr Yuri Hooker is a biologist and naturalist at the Cayetano Heredia Peruvian University in Lima, Peru. In an article published by El Comercio, A new species of coral inhabiting the waters of Paracas, he says that with the 2008 specimens he began to “start the scientific process of identification and description”. It was then validated as a new soft coral species in 2014 by Odalisca Breedy, a research specialist in Octocoral Taxonomy at the University of Costa Rica (CIMAR), and her associate Hector M. Guzman, a marine biologist with the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute (STRI).

Scientific description

This new coral species has been named Psammogorgia hookeri in honor of Dr Yuri Hooker. Breedy and Guzman describe this honor in their report, A new species of alcyonacean octocoral from the Peruvian zoogeographic region, published by Journal of the Marine Biological Association of the United Kingdom 2014, as bestowed “in recognition of his (Hooker) indefatigable and valuable contribution to the knowledge of the marine invertebrates and natural history of Peru.”

Breedy and Guzman, both experts in soft coral taxonomy and ecology, identified this new species based on colony characteristics and examinations using both light and scanning-electron microscopy. This species is described as a member of the Alcyonacea order of soft corals in the Holaxonia suborder of gorgonians. It belongs to the Plexauridae family, which are soft corals that form branching colonies and are often known as sea rods or sea fans. Within this family it is placed in the genus Psammogorgia, which now contains 14 described species, with Psammogorgia hookeri being the newest member.

Distribution

The discovery of this new soft coral has created quite a stir. The rich coral red coloring makes it an undeniable beauty, but it seems to have a very limited occurrence. It has only been found from Isla San Gallan, in the Paracas National Reserve. This reserve is located in Ica, Peru and contains the Paracas Peninsula, coastal areas, and extends inland into the tropical desert areas.

This vibrant coral is thought to possibly be endemic to the Paracas National Reserve. During his research, Hooker says he has traveled almost all of the Peruvian coasts, from Tumbes to Tacna, but has only found these soft corals in the Paracas region.

The waters of this region are cool in contrast to the more congenial waters of other eastern Pacific tropical regions, where temperatures can exceed 82.4° F (28° C). Breedy and Guzman say, “the diversity of Peruvian shallowwater octocorals may be low, but species and ecosystems have adapted to dramatic coastal oceanographic changes.” They suggest that both “seasonal and inter-annual upwellings” and El Nino impact the region, changing the surface temperatures of the water. That in turn creates a “turbid green-to-brown ecosystem”, and thus effects the bio-productivity.

Gorgonians, Sea Fans and Sea WhipsPhoto Courtesy Yuri Hooker

Description and habitat

Breedy and Guzman describe Psammogorgia hookeri colonies as small, bushy, and branching. They are about 3″(8 cm) wide with branches that reach about 7 3/4″ (12 cm) in length. They are a bright coral red color with translucent polyps.

The scientists described the coral’s colony habitation as clusters on rocky ledges and cliffs, and then spreading along the substrate. They say that areas they inhabit are generally “surrounded by other organisms such as sponges, worms, sea urchins and brachiopods among other sessile creatures.” However this coral is not a shallow water species. It has not been found at depths of less than 65′ (20 m).

Availability

Interestingly, this soft coral has been seen attached to mussel shells in local fish markets! However its availability for the reef aquarium is pretty slim right now, as finding Psammogorgia hookeri specimens in fish stores or online is difficult, if not impossible.

Learn more about the types of soft corals categorized as Gorgonians at Types of Gorgonians, Sea Fans and Sea Whips on Animal-World, which also includes coral guides for different species with pictures, background information, and the aquarium care needed for keeping them in a mini reef.

Clarice Brough is a team member at Animal-World and has contributed many articles and write-ups.

The Coral Triangle, an Awesome Visage to be Spotlighted by Animal Planet

The Coral Triangle seen in the Philippines

If you’ve ever had the opportunity to scuba dive, the area known as the “coral triangle” is a part of our world that offers a panorama of beauty to sate every artist’s palette.

Animal Planet, a unit of Discovery Communications, plans to share a bird’s eye view of the incredible life swirling beneath the waves of our vast oceans. “WILD DEEP” will be presented as a six-part televised documentary with the first episode featuring “The Coral Triangle” debuting on Tuesday, January 22, at 9:00pm ET/PT.

In the Animal Planet WILD DEEP press release they say the documentary will showcase “the amazing wonders and epic beauty that exist in Earth’s seas and oceans.” Their first episode will start “with a deep dive into the waters of the Coral Triangle near Asia.” Subsequent episodes will involve “series dives into the waters surrounding Africa, Europe, Oceania and the Americas to showcase the dramatic, complex universes beneath their waves.”

Coral Triangle covers 5.7 million square kilometers in the Southwestern Pacific Ocean, encompassing Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Papua New Guinea, Timor Leste and the Solomon Islands.

The Coral Triangle covers 5.7 million square kilometers in the Southwestern Pacific Ocean. It is a roughly shaped triangular region encompassing Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Papua New Guinea, Timor Leste and the Solomon Islands.

Each episode of the Animal Planet documentary should be a fascinating adventure, but the Coral Triangle region will definitely be a highlight.

The waters of this area are teeming with vast and extremely diverse life forms. Besides being known as the “coral triangle” it is also called the “Amazon of the seas”, reflecting the great Amazon Basin region which is re-known for the extraordinary beauty and diversity of its own inhabitants.

Even a single coral head is covered with multiple coral species and a variety of saltwater fish

When we see ocean corals and fish above water, viewed in the full spectrum of light offered by aquariums, photos, or videos, we can see the incredible colors they possess.

Yet under water, the red spectrum of light becomes reduced the deeper you go, and the animals present a much more even palette. A soothing elegance of interconnected color is created beneath the waves. Though not necessarily flamboyant, this natural deep-water setting offers an awesome, yet curiously comforting scene.

The The Coral Triangle Center states that “a full 76 percent of known coral species are found here and 37 percent of reef fish species.” Now that’s a lot of critters! There are extensive mangrove forests in the region. Mangrove swamps grow along coastal regions and have massive root systems that are efficient at dissipating wave energy, so they protect the coastal areas from erosion, storm surges, and tsunamis. But they also provide valuable nursery areas for all sorts of aquatic animals.

The Coral Triangle is incredibly diverse with 76 percent of the world’s reef corals and hundreds of saltwater fish species

The reef areas are also rich in life, with animals ranging from corals and fish to many types of invertebrates and algaes. They offer spawning and breeding grounds too, for whales and dolphins, sea turtles, and huge fisheries. According to the Coral Triangle Center, the life encountered in this region has “sustained sea faring island people for millennia.”

The Center says that today this incredible habitat “is recognized as the global centre of marine biodiversity and a global priority for conservation.” The diversity of these reef are the seeding stock for future coral reefs, and can help “ensure adaptation as our natural communities respond to climate change and other global trends.”

GMA News reports that the Coral Triangle region has been recognized “as an area of acute ecological importance and of great concern by many governments”. Countries including Indonesia, Malaysia, Timor Leste, Papua New Guinea, the Philippines and the Solomon Islands have come together to form ‘The Coral Triangle Initiative’. GMA reports that the Initiative’s purpose is to urgently spread “ideas about sustainable fishing practices” and to set up “marine reserves across the region to ensure pockets of this fragile ecosystem are protected and allowed to thrive.”

Animal-World provides pictures and information on a large selection of Coral Reef Animals and Saltwater fish, along with detailed information on the care necessary to keep them in a marine aquarium or reef tank.

Clarice Brough is a team member at Animal-World and has contributed many articles and write-ups.

The California Hydrocoral

June 23, 2012 by  
Filed under All Posts, Aquariums, Corals Mini-Reef

California Hydrocoral - Stylaster californicusCalifornia Hydrocoral
Stylaster californicus

“I’m related to the beautiful Fire Coral, but without its fiercesome sting!”

The California Hydrocoral has many brilliant color variations, including a

beautiful yellow!

The California Hydrocoral Stylaster californicus grows in many different formations. They can have tangled and dense networks of brittle branches or have pointed tip and delicate lace-like formations. They have a variety of colors from orange to purple and pinkish purple, and these are most attractive on a smooth surface.

These corals can be arborescent (tree-like) or encrusting on occasion, but generally are more delicately laced branches which grow on the same plane. Stylaster corals have smooth surfaces with thick tissue. Most of their common colors come in orane, white, yellow, purple, and pink with white margins. Their colors are known for being quite bright. Other names the California Hydrocoral goes by include just the Hydrocoral, the Fire Coral, the Lace Coral, and the Rose Lace Coral… Read More

More on the California Hydrocoral!

Moon Polyps

January 15, 2012 by  
Filed under All Posts, Aquariums, Corals Mini-Reef

Moon Polyps - Palythoa sp.Moon Polyps
Palythoa sp.

“This is a sea mat type of button coral! They form clusters of polyps on “mats” of sand!”

Moon Polyps received their name from the way their clusters of polyps appear –

in the shape of half moons!

The Moon Polyps Palythoa sp., are called by other names as well, including Encrusting Anemones, Sea Mats, and Zoanthid Button Polyps. They are actually colonial anemones and are fairly common in home reef aquariums. This genus alone, however, has lots of variety. They have polyps which are partially embedded in a mat and are quite short. Every polyp has flat discs that are covered with tentacles on their rims. Some species have tentacles which are very long and thin while others are knobby and short. Colors range from white, yellow, brown, cream, coffee, or yellow!

Palythoa sp. have a “mat” called the coenenchyma which connects the polyps. These polyps have little parts of sand and/or sediment that they use in the mat to make it more stiff and easier to support a colony. These extra bits of sand and sediment which make up the debris account for about 45% of the weight. The colonies grow in half-moon shapes (convex) and grow anywhere from 4″ to 12″ (10 – 30 cm) in diameter… Read More

More on Moon Polyps!

The Corky Sea Finger

December 21, 2011 by  
Filed under All Posts, Aquariums, Corals Mini-Reef

Corky Sea Finger - Briareum asbestinumCorky Sea Finger
Briareum asbestinum

“This coral actually gets its shape by growing on and over other Gorgoninas – which makes him more “quirky” than corky!”

The Corky Sea Finger reproduces easily and is quite easy to care for – making it a great

beginner coral!

The Corky Sea Finger Briareum asbestinum, also goes by the name of the Purple Corky Finger. It is quite beautiful and has a finger shape, which is helped formed because it actually grows over and on other gorgonian species. These Gorgonians thrive in many conditions and are native to areas all over the Western Atlantic Ocean, including pristine and clean waters as well as more nutrient rich areas of water. They most often inhabit knee deep shallow waters. These corals are extremely popular and are collected more often than any other species. Other names this species goes by include the Purple Corky Finger, the Caribbean Corky Finger, the Moss Coral, the Deadman’s Finger, and the Sea Stalk Briareum.

These Gorgonians have another neat quality – if they have green tentacles with a purple base, then they have a fantastic glow when kept unter actinic lighting! The mat of the Corky Sea Finger is usually tan or purplish and gray with calyces that are basically just nubs and which are slightly raised… Read More

More on The Corky Sea Finger!