Newly Discovered Coral Reef Species from Gambier Islands

First Posted: Jul 26, 2013 03:59 PM EDT

A new coral reef species has been detected from the Gambier Islands, according to researchers.

Known as the Echinonphyllia tarae, it's only been described from a remote and poorly studied area. Though the new species is relatively common in the lagoon of the Gambier Islands, its occurrence is relatively unknown elsewhere.

A press release notes that it lives in protective reef habitats and is observed between 5 and 20 mile depth. It is a zooxanthellate species that most commonly grow on dead coral gragments that can also be covered by crustose coralline algae and fleshy macroalgae.

This incredible species can grow on well illuminated surfaces, according to researchers, but also encrusts shaded underhangs and contributes to the formation of coral reefs in the Gambier. It's characterized by large polpys and may be illuminated by bright mottled colourations.

Stony corals are unfortunately currently under threat due to the severe consequences of global warming, as the ocean acidification and anthropogenic changes of reef structures harm the creatures within its waters.

Researchers of the study note that although corals represent a widely studied group of marine life, this new discovery in French Polynesia shows that there is much to learn about coral diversity and the subject is still very much incomplete.

The press release notes that the species is named after the Tara vessel that allowed the exploration of coral reefs in Gambier. The name "tara" in Polynesian also refers to a spiny, pointed object.

Sort of fitting for this species, don't you think? (wink)

More information regarding this study can be found in journal Zoo Keys

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