Day and night, scientists work tirelessly to study the processes of living things and their interactions within ecosystems. Sometimes, either by luck or a hot pursuit, biologist may come across a new type of organism that has never before been named by man. When this happens, not only does the scientist get the fascinating task of describing the new species – its habits, interactions and lifestyle – he or she also gets to create an official scientific name.
Recently some scientists who were studying Australia’s Great Barrier Reef came across something rare in the field of investigative research – they found hundreds of previously undescribed species of marine life. Among the treasures were nearly 130 new species of coral. Corals are fascinating invertebrates that are extremely ancient animals having evolved into modern reef-building forms in the last 25 million years. Coral reefs are unique and complex systems that are considered to rival old growth forests in terms of the longevity of their ecological communities. A mature coral reef community reflects many thousands of years of biological history. How impressive!
In addition to new species of corals, scientists also inventoried new species of isopods, crustaceans and worms. Each species represents a whole new contribution to the growing body of scientific knowledge about coral reef and marine ecosystems. Scientists claim that these discoveries reflect the immense amount of unknown that remains in our natural world. The hundreds of new species found on the Australian Reef may be the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the undescribed animals and plants that remain in our world. And because of the global threats to freshwater and marine ecosystems – pollution, overharvesting of fish, coral bleaching and temperature change to name a few – it’s as important as ever for scientists to make these discoveries.
To read more about how scientists discovered these species in Australia, check out this article.
For more on coral reef ecology and conservation, visit the homepage of the Coral Reef Alliance.