The preliminary results of the Semporna Marine Ecological Expedition (December 2010) indicate that Semporna may have the world's highest marine biodiversity. The expedition yielded a record number of 43 species of mushroom corals. Furthermore, some new species were discovered, among which at least two shrimps and possibly a number of gall crabs. The health of the reefs was judged to be relatively poor: 36% of the transects had fair, another 36% had poor live coral cover. Eighteen scientists from Malaysia, the Netherlands and the USA spent three weeks examining the reefs of Semporna, Sabah, Malaysia, situated at the apex of the Coral Triangle. A biodiversity team documented the species richness for mushroom corals, reef fish, shrimps, gall crabs, ovulid snails, and algae. A reef status team documented the health of the coral reefs.
Mushroom corals are a family of corals of which most species live freely on the sea bed, from the shallow reef flat down to the sandy reef base. The expedition documented a record number of 43 species of mushroom corals in Semporna. The previous highest recorded richness of this family was 40 species at several sites in Indonesia and Papua New Guinea. "Mushroom corals can be used as a proxy for other coral richness. Where we find high richness of mushroom corals, we usually find extremely high richness of other corals," says Dr Bert Hoeksema, Head of Department of Marine Zoology, NCB Naturalis. Hoeksema was leader of the biodiversity team. Team member Dr Charles Fransen discovered two new shrimp species and PhD student Sancia van der Meij found at least one gall crab species new to science.
The count of fish species clearly demonstrates that Semporna is one of the richest areas within the Coral Triangle. Dr Kent Carpenter, Professor at Department of Biological Sciences, Old Dominion University states, "At some of the more diverse reefs, fish species counts rivalled the highest counts that the fish team found in the
|Contact: Astrid Kromhout|