Wednesday, February 11, 2009

New Species on Australian Reefs

And also in Australia... scientists have discovered hundreds of new coral and marine species on the Great Barrier and Ningaloo Reefs. They say the discovery will help scientists understand more about global warming and over-fishing.

Three expeditions to the reefs over four years to collect the first inventory of soft corals, found 300 soft corals of which 130 are new species.

Dozens of new marine species were found, including shrimp-like animals with claws longer than their bodies. They also found less-commonly known animals like a tongue-eating isopod parasite... which eats a fish's tongue and then lives in its mouth.

Australian Institute of Marine Science research scientist Julian Caley, says researchers never expected to find so many new species. It'll take years just to name them.

[Julian Caley, Research Scientist]:
"These new species, some are new species which people were, have never seen before because they're cryptic, they live in environments that people don't tend to look at."

The marine inventory will allow better understanding of reef biodiversity and climate change.

Corals face threats ranging from ocean acidification, pollution, and warming, to over-fishing and starfish outbreaks.

The Australian expeditions are part of the global Census of Marine Life, which will release its first global census in the year 2010.