3 new coral species discovered in Hong Kong waters

Biologists from Hong Kong Baptist University have discovered three new species of corals in the city’s waters.

The new marine species of hard corals – which means they have hard calcium carbonate skeletons – has not been identified anywhere else in the world.

The new species was discovered by Professor Qiu Jianwen and Master of Philosophy student Yu Qingfong from the university’s Department of Biology, and their results have already been accepted for publication in the academic journal, the university said in a press release on Thursday. zoology studies.

The team named the three species Tubastraea dendroida, Tabastria Chloromura And the Topstria Violacea. They are all of the same gender Topastriamore commonly known as the sun’s coral.

Colony Tubastraea dendroida In the field. Photo: Hong Kong Baptist University

Similar to most sun coralTubastraea dendroida It has a light orange colour.

Instead of growing in clumps like most related species, these new species have tree-like structures, with the main stem of their colony attenuated from base to tip. That’s why the team called it “”DendroidTo reflect his body in the shape of a tree.

Colony Topstria Violacea With extended claws. Photo: Hong Kong Baptist University

covered with a thin layer of pale lilac texture on coralite (skeletal cups), Topstria Violacea It stands out from other related species of sun coral as its wall and skeletal tissues are violet. Its claws are yellow and have a thick wall.

Based on comparisons with DNA sequences in public databases, the team found that this species may have color variants elsewhere, such as New Caledonia’s yellow variant in the South Pacific.

Colony Tabastria Chloromura With retracted claws. Photo: Hong Kong Baptist University

The final types are tapestria chloromura, It has a delicate olive green skeletal wall and a circle of yellow tentacles surrounding its mouth. As a result, the species was named “chloromura“, with “chlorine” And the “morosMeans ‘green’ and ‘wall’, respectively.

From coral gene sequences recorded in public databases, university biologists visualize the possible distribution of Tubastraea dendroida And the Topstria Violacea in Japan and the Western Pacific. However, at this point, Tabastria Chloromura It is known that it inhabits the waters of Hong Kong only.

All three of these types of corals are corals that do not build reefs. It does not host symbiotic algae that produce nutrients and energy by photosynthesis.

Living in deep waters at depths of 10-30 metres, they gain energy and nutrients by capturing zooplankton from seawater using their tentacles.

We discovered three new types of Topastria Enhances our knowledge of the genus diversity of this sun coral. Because corals are one of the best-studied marine animals, our study reveals how little we know about marine diversity, and how many undescribed species still await our discovery,” Chiu said.

“The discovery is very encouraging because it provides strong evidence for the high marine biodiversity in Hong Kong waters… It also inspires us to continue to explore the diversity of marine animals, study their functions and ecosystem services, and protect them from potential human disturbance.”

The samples were collected when the team surveyed coral-eating slugs, a shell-free marine mollusk, on Song Kong and Waglan Island in Hong Kong’s eastern waters.

With the addition of three new members, the number of known species in Topastria Sex increased from seven to ten.

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