New coral species discovered off coast of California

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A NOAA-led research team has discovered a new species of deep sea coral.

In the first intensive exploration of California’s offshore areas north of Bodega Head, marine scientists used small submersibles and other innovative technologies to investigate, film and photograph marine life that has adapted to survive in offshore waters reaching 1,000ft deep.

The new species of deep-sea coral is a member of the Leptogorgia genus and was located at a depth of about 600ft. Scientists say the new species is most likely closely related to gorgonian corals.

Submarine canyons, such as Bodega Canyon, extend from the continental shelf to the deep sea – making their exploration difficult but worthwhile. The canyons are important because they act as a refuge for important species of fish and provide a habitat for sensitive species of deep water corals and sponges. 

Scientists also discovered a catshark nursery, which also featured hundreds of skate egg
cases on the seafloor and in bundles on the rocks surrounding the catshark nursery area.

"This is a highly unusual nursery because rarely, if ever, are shark nurseries in the same area as skate nurseries," said Peter Etnoyer, a deep-sea biologist at NOAA’s National Centres for Coastal Ocean Science.

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