New coral species to aid researchers

November 24, 2018 by  

A new type of coral has been uncovered off the north coast of Western Australia.

The Welshpool-based Western Australian Museum, together with universities in Japan and Australia, made the discovery recently. They claim the find will provide an insight into the species of coral that is adapting in locations severely impacted by climate change.

Dubbed ‘Heliopora hiberniana’, after the region in the Kimberley where it was discovered, the species is believed to have originated from the reef-building Octocoral family which are more widely known as ‘blue coral’.

The blue coral family, which has been the focus of brochure printing and many informative books throughout the decades, had previously been believed to have remained unchanged in 66 million years since the Cretaceous period. This has made the latest discovery one of great significance.

WA Museum Research Associate and Curtin University Research Fellow Dr Zoe Richards, who was a member of the discovery team, said the area in which the species was found has been severely affected by climate change causing a disturbance to both the hard coral and scleractinan communities. She said:

“Coral reefs are the most diverse ecosystems on the planet. However, climate change and widespread bleaching events over the last two decades have caused hard corals to retreat, threatening to destabilise critical biological and ecosystem functions such as reef building.

The discovery, according to Dr Richards, will continue to assist researchers in their efforts to explore predicted changes in coral reef ecosystems.