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New study reveals coral reefs may support much more biodiversity than previously thought
Date:11/2/2011

ture."

Crustaceans collected for the survey were only those the scientists could see, and ranged from 0.2 to 1.9 inches long. All animals from which DNA was sequenced were preserved so they could be examined later by taxonomists.

"We collected dead corals because live corals defend themselves from being inhabited by other invertebrates," said Laetitia Plaisance of the Smithsonian's National Museum of Natural History and the Scripps Institution of Oceanography, and lead author of the survey.

Once a coral dies its structure becomes covered with algae, sponges, crustaceans, worms, mollusks and other creatures.

"Given the complexity and extent of the world's coral reefs, the survey covered only a very limited depth and habitat range," said Plaisance. "And yet we have so many more species than we ever expected."

Present estimates of species diversity in reefs are 600,000 to more than 9 million species worldwide. "We cannot give a new estimate today, but we may be able to in a few years," Plaisance said. Using man-made sampling structures at some 50 sites around the world, Plaisance is now working with the Smithsonian and the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration on another survey that will include all of the many organisms that live on coral reefs.


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Contact: John Gibbons
gibbonsjp@si.edu
202-633-5187
Smithsonian
Source:Eurekalert  

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