Stunning new coral species discovered

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A new fiery-red coral species has been discovered in the Peruvian Pacific.

The soft coral, found in hand-sized colonies on rocky ledges, was collected by SCUBA divers at depths of up to 25m in Peru's Paracas National Reserve.

Researchers also found tiny bits of the coral attached to mussels from Peru’s Independence Bay at a nearby fish market.

Costa Rican researchers at the Smithsonian and the University of Costa Rica named the new coral species, Psammogorgia hookeri, for Yuri Hooker, biologist and naturalist at the Peruvian University Cayetano Heredia in Lima, Peru.

"This new species may be an endemic: found nowhere else in the world," said Hector M. Guzman, marine biologist at the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute. "But coral reefs and coral communities in Peru have never been systematically studied. We expect more surprises as we look at new collections."

Guzmán, along with Odalisca Breedy — who is the lead author of the report in the Journal of the Maritime Biological Association of the United Kingdom — are experts in soft coral taxonomy and ecology. So far they have discovered nearly 25 new species of soft coral in the Pacific.

This new species underscores the importance of Peru’s still largely unexplored marine protected areas.

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