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New deep-sea coral discovered on NOAA-supported mission
Date:3/5/2009

Scientists identified seven new species of bamboo coral discovered on a NOAA-funded mission in the deep waters of the Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument. Six of these species may represent entirely new genera, a remarkable feat given the broad classification a genus represents. A genus is a major category in the classification of organisms, ranking above a species and below a family. Scientists expect to identify more new species as analysis of samples continues.

"These discoveries are important, because deep-sea corals support diverse seafloor ecosystems and also because these corals may be among the first marine organisms to be affected by ocean acidification," said Richard Spinrad, Ph.D., NOAA's assistant administrator for Oceanic and Atmospheric Research. Ocean acidification is a change in ocean chemistry due to excess carbon dioxide. Researchers have seen adverse changes in marine life with calcium-carbonate shells, such as corals, because of acidified ocean water.

"Deep-sea bamboo corals also produce growth rings much as trees do, and can provide a much-needed view of how deep ocean conditions change through time," said Spinrad.

Rob Dunbar, a Stanford University scientist, was studying long-term climate data by examining long-lived corals. "We found live, 4,000-year-old corals in the Monument meaning 4,000 years worth of information about what has been going on in the deep ocean interior."

"Studying these corals can help us understand how they survive for such long periods of time as well as how they may respond to climate change in the future," said Dunbar.

Among the other findings were a five-foot tall yellow bamboo coral tree that had never been described before, new beds of living deepwater coral and sponges, and a giant sponge scientists dubbed the "cauldron sponge," approximately three feet tall and three feet across. Scientists collected two other sponges which have not yet been anal
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Contact: Christine Patrick
Christine.Patrick@noaa.gov
301-734-1030
NOAA Headquarters
Source:Eurekalert

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