Twelve new coral and fish species discovered off Madagascar

WASHINGTON, D.C. (May 13, 2002) At least twelve coral and fish species new to science have been discovered off the northwestern coast of Madagascar in a just-completed marine survey led by scientists from Conservation International's Center for Applied Biodiversity Science (CABS). The researchers found diverse marine life and vibrant reef habitats in the underwater environment of this previously unexplored sector of the northern Indian Ocean.

At least three new fish species belonging to the damselfish family Pomacentridae, a large family containing about 350 species, were discovered. Given previous fish work on the island and the generally conspicuous nature of these reef dwellers, the discovery of three new species in this family was extremely unusual.

At least nine new coral species were recorded as well, one of which is most frequently blood red, although it can occur in a wide range of other colors. It appears in many environments, especially under overhangs and on rock faces.

"Madagascar gets a lot of attention for its biodiversity on land, but its marine habitats are equally precious and threatened," said Dr. Sheila McKenna, Conservation International's Marine Rapid Assessment Program (RAP) Director. "Corals, with their bright colors and unusual shapes and textures, can be as exciting to study as lemurs, and their well-being requires as much attention."

The number of described corals known to exist in Madagascar was nearly doubled during CABS's 20-day expedition, approaching the total of 340 species previously recorded for the entire western Indian Ocean and representing more than one-third of the world's total known species of hard corals.

Fringing one-sixth of the world's coastlines and supporting hundreds of thousands of animal and plant species, coral reefs are the most biologically diverse of shallow water marine ecosystems. Coral reefs consist of plants and animals, primarily corals that surround their s

Contact: Brad Phillips
Conservation International

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