Coral Reefs Dense With Unusual Wildlife Discovered in Brazil

Mussismilia braziliensis
Image: Colony of Mussismilia braziliensis corals (photo by Carlos Secchin, from report by SIGEP)

An extensive new reef – deep in the ocean and abundantly packed with unique marine life – has been located by scientists off the southern coast of Bahia state in Brazil. The discovery was made in the Abrolhos Bank in the Southern Atlantic, already one of the world’s largest and most bio-diverse reef systems. Yet it is believed that the newfound reef areas will potentially double the size of the known Abrolhos Bank.

"We had some clues from local fishermen that other reefs existed, but not at the scale of what we discovered," says Rodrigo de Moura, a marine specialist for Conservation International Brazil.

Map of previously known Abrolhos reef complex
Image: Map of previously known Abrolhos reef complex, SIGEP

"It is very exciting and highly unusual to discover a reef structure this large and harbouring such an abundance of fish," added de Moura.

Using a side scan sonar, researchers went to previously uncharted depths, producing a three-dimensional map of the reef formations from 60 to 220 feet (20 to 73 meters).

"Due to their relative inaccessibility and depth, the newly discovered reefs are teeming with life, in some places harboring 30 times the density of marine life than the known, shallower reefs," says Guilherme Dutra, director of marine programs for Conservation International Brazil. "That's the good news. The bad news is that only a small percentage of marine habitats in the Abrolhos are protected, despite mounting localized and global threats."

Currently, there are only limited efforts to protect the significant number of endemic marine species from the combined threats of over-fishing, coastal development and marine pollution and ocean acidification. Found nowhere else, these species range from soft corals, mollusks and fish, to an ancient genus of mushroom-shaped corals known as Mussismilia, the dominant group in these waters despite their disappearance in other parts of the Atlantic.

Nevertheless, scientists hope that future investigations of the reefs will bolster preservation efforts. "These studies [will] reveal the complexity and connectivity of the reefs in the Abrolhos region and will support conservation planning," says Dutra.

::Environmental Network News

Related Links on Coral Reefs

Increasing Ocean Acidification Eroding Coral Reefs
Coral Die-Offs Are Faster and More Widespread than Previously Thought
Abrolhos - The South Atlantic Largest Coral Reef Complex (Brazilian Commission of Geological and Paleobiological Sites, SIGEP)

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