Sunday 4 June 2017

Sinularia mesophotica: A new species of Octocoral from the Mesophotic Zone of the northern Red Sea.

The Corals of the northern Red Sea have been extensively studied, but almost all of these studies have been confined to the Corals of the Photic Zone (the area in which the sea is fully illuminated by the Sun, roughly the upper 30 m). However, recent studies have suggested that Corals on these reefs may reach their maximum diversity in the Mesophotic Zone (sometimes called the 'Twilight Zone', where some light reaches from the surface, but the water is not fully illuminated), prompting further study of this region.

In a paper published in the journal ZooKeys on 23 May 2017, Yehuda Benayahu of the School of Zoology at Tel Aviv University, Catherine McFadden of the Department of Biology at Harvey Mudd College, Erez Shoham, also of the School of Zoology at Tel Aviv University, and Leen van Ofwegen of the Department of Marine Zoology at the Naturalis Biodiversity Centre, describe a new species of Octocoral (colonial Corals with eight-fold symmetry) from the Mesophotic Zone of the Gulf of Aqaba at the northern tip of the Red Sea.

The new species is placed in the genus Sinularia, and is given the specific name mesophotica, in reference to the habitat where it was found. The species is described from three specimens, found growing at a depth of 62 m off the coast of Dekel Beach at Eilat on the Red Sea coast of Israel. It forms thin, but densely packed, colonies of funnel shaped polyps on calcareous substrates.

Patch of Sinularia mesophotica colonies off the coast of Eilat, Israel. Benayahu et al. (2017).

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