Deepest reef coral in the world discovered

14 May 2019

Museum of Tropical Queensland Honorary Professor Michel Pichon is part of the team to discover the world’s deepest mesephotic coral, Leptoseris hawaiiensis at -172 metres.

Professor Pichon was able to successfully identify the species and validate the record while working with the team from the Under The Pole expedition who collected the coral in the Gambier islands of French Polynesia.

 

In total, 4000 samples of mesophotic corals have been collected by the divers during the expedition. This now represents the largest collection of its kind, worldwide.

 

These discoveries contribute to support the hypothesis that the mesophotic environment acts as a refuge for the superficial corals, and therefore gives hope to restore the latter.

 

Professor Pichon who is a world renowned expert in coral reefs and coral identification has been studying corals for over 50 years.

 

‘’I’ve been waiting for this kind of discovery for over 40 years,” he said.

 

“All the samples gathered by the end of the expedition will represent the largest collection of mesophotic corals in the world, especially for samples collected deeper than -90 m.

 

“The partnership ‘Under The Pole – DeepHope’ is the most intense and efficient program until this day, and the results arising from this program as well as their impact are of critical interest at a global scale.”

 

Professor Pichon said the discovery of a coral 172m under the surface, combined with this unique collection gathered, prove that superficial corals migrate to greater depths, to find shelter and thrive.

 

“Those results represent robust foundations to test the capacity for mesophotic corals to act as a refuge consequently to the deterioration of the shallow reefs impacted by global changes, as well as their ability to play a role in the restoration of those reefs,” Professor Pichon said.

 

Media Contacts:

Andrea Hughes                       

07 4726 0604 or 0497 347 117

andrea.hughes@qm.qld.gov.au