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World’s Rarest Coral Discovered In Pacific Ocean

World’s Rarest Coral Discovered In Pacific Ocean

For the first time in over 100 years, a colony of Pacific elkhorn coral (Acropora rotumana) has been spotted in the remote North Pacific Ocean.

Researchers from Australia’s Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies (CoECRS) found the coral during an underwater survey of the Arno atoll in the Marshall Islands.

The Pacific elkhorn coral got its name from the long, horn-like branches it develops over thousands of years. The colony found by the CoECRE researchers was especially large, measuring 16 feet (5 meters) across and nearly 7 feet (2 m) high.

According to LiveScience, the coral colony looks like the critically endangered elkhorn coral (Acropora palmata) of the Atlantic Ocean, but genetic analysis has shown that the Atlantic and Pacific varieties are different species.

Part of the dominant genus of reef-building corals, researchers are very interested in learning how the Pacific version lives, and hope that it will provide clues about these exotic marine creatures that will help determine their conservation status.

Coral Conundrum

Discovering a patch of rare coral of this magnitude is a welcome bit of good news for oceanographers that have been slowly watching the world’s coral reefs disappear.

For years, marine scientists have noticed that abnormally warm weather, coupled with pollution and overfishing, have contributed to a rapid decline in large coral around the world.

Smaller coral varieties are trying to pick up the slack, but they don’t have the ability to build the same vast reef structures that provide homes to many species of tropical fish. Scientists fear that if large coral species dissapear, the fish might soon follow.

Safe For Now?

Although the newfound colony of elkhorn coral is thrilling for scientists, it’s difficult to say how long it will be able to survive.

Coral bleaching, another symptom of climate change and pollution, occurs when the symbiosis between the coral and the algae breaks down and corals effectively expel the algae and turn white.

Thirty years ago these bleaching events were very rare, but scientists have found them more frequently in recent years.

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Image Credit: Flickr - Paul and Jill

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156 comments

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3:26PM PST on Feb 10, 2012

Thank you.

9:23PM PDT on May 16, 2011

Hope it will survive!

6:53PM PDT on Sep 16, 2010

Excellent news to hear. More help for the reefs.

11:53AM PDT on Sep 8, 2010

Our planet is still trying to balance her self, it seems. Good to see and hear there are new species coming on.

8:58AM PDT on Aug 19, 2010

Wooow so nice, to descuber of new spice is ever amazing, i hope this coral surviver all the climate change

11:30AM PDT on Aug 18, 2010

how great...magnificent...hope they will survive the change...all together them and us we shall try...

8:21AM PDT on Aug 17, 2010

Signed, thanks.

5:29PM PDT on Aug 15, 2010

HUMANS GROW IN POPULATION IS A DISEASE AFFECTING THE PLANET AS LIVING BEING.

12:25PM PDT on Aug 15, 2010

Signed both petitions Previously. I love to watch Tv shows about Coral reefs and other underwater fact shows. I would give my right arm to visit one for real. Thanks for Posting This Beth.

10:59AM PDT on Aug 15, 2010

wow, thanks :)

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