Marine scientists have discovered new coral species and a uncommon sponge reef off the coast which, it’s hoped, may even result in the invention of new antibiotics.
The stony coral Lophelia petusa forms perfect reef habitat for the Lepidion fish. The species was identified in an oceanic expedition.
The scientists used the Marine Institute’s remotely-operated car Holland 1 to seize, what they are saying, is a quantity of firsts in Irish waters. They spent three weeks at sea on the ILV Granuaile investigating Ireland’s deep ocean 480km off the west coast.
“This is the first time I have seen a sponge reef like this in nearly 20 years of studying the deep north east Atlantic,” stated Kerry Howell of Plymouth University.
The high-definition ROV-mounted video captured a species of octocoral of the genus Corallium, which grows into large followers with a fragile porcelain-like skeleton, and a species of black coral completely different to others described so far, which can show to be a completely new species.
The survey really confirmed that Irish deep-waters are a haven for the uncommon and delicate deep-sea black corals which, regardless of the title, are literally very vibrant. The group additionally reported areas of potential ‘sponge reef’ on the Rockall Bank, a extremely uncommon accumulation of residing and lifeless sponges forming a fancy habitat for a lot of different creatures. Such formations are very uncommon and have beforehand solely been recorded in Canadian waters.
“We are very pleased to discover what appear to be new coral species and a rare sponge reef, neither of which have been previously documented in Irish waters,” stated David O’Sullivan of the Marine Institute who’s chief scientist on the SeaRover survey.
Louise Allcock of NUI Galway, who’s funded by Science Foundation Ireland and the Marine Institute to check the pharmaceutical potential of deep-sea corals and sponges, stated the mission highlighted co-operation between Irish and worldwide marine scientists “helping us to further our understanding of these sensitive ecosystems and has also been able to provide training opportunities and sea-going experience for young scientists”.
The ‘SeaRover’ survey is the second of three deliberate expeditions funded by the Government and the EU’s European Maritime and Fisheries Fund. This 12 months’s expedition prolonged the habitat exploration space to the Rockall Bank, the farthest offshore extent of Ireland’s Economic Exclusive Zone.
© Irish Examiner Ltd. All rights reserved