Europe

Rare coral and 'new species' found in Irish waters

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Media captionThe coral was found in a deep sea research mission off the west coast of Ireland.

Rare coral has been found in a deep sea research mission off the west coast of Ireland.

Scientists from the Marine Institute in Galway found a black coral previously undocumented in Irish waters.

The team of marine experts, who spent three weeks at sea, also spotted areas of potential sponge reef, previously only recorded in Canadian waters.

Chief scientist David O'Sullivan said the study helped understand and protect Ireland's marine biodiversity.

The new species were captured on a high definition remotely operated vehicle.

Corallium, which grows into huge fans with a delicate porcelain-like skeleton, was seen twice during the SeaRover survey. The species of black coral caught on camera was different to others described to date, and may prove to be an entirely new species.

Image copyright Marine Institution
Image caption Corallium has never been recorded in Irish waters before, but was spotted twice during the SeaRover cruise

"We made a couple of different finds and there were a couple of species that had never been seen in Irish waters before," said Mr O'Sullivan, from the Marine Institute.

"That's not to say that they haven't been there all along, but they haven't been looked at by an expert before and actually known what they were.

"We were really excited to find that there was one species which doesn't appear to have been described by anyone before, so it's an entirely new species."

Real-time

He added: "It was really good to have experts on board who could see the different species in real-time.

"This kind of research is important because it allows us to see what's going on in our oceans and the ecological requirements for the species."

The SeaRover survey is the second of three planned expeditions jointly funded by the Irish Government and the EU's European Maritime and Fisheries Fund.

The experts on-board were all from the Marine Institute, National Parks and Wildlife Service, National University of Ireland Galway and Plymouth University.

Mr O'Sullivan said the team were delighted with their findings, but the "hard work starts now" as they analyse the survey back in Galway.