The exposed top of a large unidentified sea pen in the genus Pteroeides. The main part of the body is buried in the sand. Photo credit: Gary Williams, California Academy of Sciences
During a marine and land survey of the Philippines spanning just 42 days, researchers from the California Academy of Sciences uncovered more than 300 new species. The discovery included new species of plants and fish, as well as numerous crabs and a unique species of shark.
A new species of swell shark. It can inflate its stomach with water to bulk up and scare off other predators. Photo credit: Stephanie Stone, California Academy of Sciences
"The Philippines is one of the hottest of the hot spots for diverse and threatened life on Earth," Expedition Leader Terrence Gosliner said, "Despite this designation, however, the biodiversity here is still relatively unknown, and we found new species during nearly every dive and hike as we surveyed the country's reefs, rainforests, and the ocean floor."
Photo credit: Stephanie Stone, California Academy of Sciences
A new species of barnacle living symbiotically on a black coral. Photo credit: Terry Gosliner, California Academy of Sciences
READ MORE: 94 New Species Described by the California Academy of Sciences
Photo credit: Aissa Domingo, National Museum of the Philippines
A new species of sea slug discovered during the 2011 Philippine Biodiversity Expedition. Instead of using a shell, these slugs protect themselves by producing powerful toxins. Photo credit: Terry Gosliner, California Academy of Sciences
In addition to the stunning discoveries of new species, the expedition also uncovered some alarming threats to the region. Plastic pollution, in particular, was identified as a major problem for the species struggling to survive in the marine ecosystems surrounding the archipelago nation. Increasing sediment washing into reefs from forested areas is also choking these important centers of biodiversity.
The California Academy of Sciences plans to work with local and international conservation organizations so that their data can help establish, expand, and improve the effectiveness of marine reserves in the region.
Read more about the Philippines:
Tiny Philippine Island is Center of a Crazy-But-True Natural Wonder (Slideshow)
Massive Coral Bleaching Damages 95% of Corals in Philippines
Coal Ship Runs Aground, Destroys Coral Reef in Philippine Marine Sanctuary