The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration announced on Wednesday, November 5th that a team of oceanographic researchers have discovered a new species of deep-sea coral in a “nursery” area for catsharks and skates in underwater canyons off the coast of Northern California. NOAA said the team used new exploration technologies (including small submersibles) to investigate marine life that has made adaptations to survive in 1000-foot-deep offshore waters.
Expedition led to two major discoveries, including a new coral species
The team really made two big discoveries off the Sonoma coast this fall, NOAA noted in a statement, the first being hundreds of egg cases from skates, which are similar to rays, on the seafloor and in bundles on the rocks surrounding a catshark nursery area.
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In a separate discovery, another team of oceanpraphers also discovered corals living at 600 feet underwater. After some research, it turns out that they are a new coral species belonging to the deep-sea coral Leptogorgia genus, NOAA said in its statement.
The expedition was exploring an area close to the Gulf of Farallones and Cordell Bank national marine sanctuaries, north of Bodega Head, and the team included a consortium of more than a dozen federal and state marine researchers.
Statements from researchers
“This is a highly unusual nursery because rarely, if ever, are shark nurseries in the same area as skate nurseries,” Peter Etnoyer, a deep-sea biologist at NOAA’s National Centers for Coastal Ocean Science, noted in the statement.
“Deep-sea corals and sponges provide valuable refuge for fish and other marine life,” said Maria Brown, Farallones sanctuary superintendent. “Data on these life forms helps determine the extent and ecological importance of deep-sea communities and the threats they face. Effective management of these ecosystems requires science-based information on their condition.”
“This work helps inform our knowledge and understanding of … areas that are extremely important to the ocean environment,” explained Danielle Lipski, Cordell Bank National Marine Sanctuary research coordinator and expedition leader.