It may be a bit surprising that previously undescribed species can still be discovered in an area such as the rocky reefs of the Tamar River Estuary in Tasmania, which is fairly well studied and frequently photographed by recreational divers. Yet, that is exactly what occurred when Megan Dykman, a 22-year-old graduate student with the Institute for Marine Antarctic Studies (IMAS), conducted a study of the area between Beauty Point and Low Head, just beyond 10-15 meters of depth.
Originally intending only to survey the known flora and fauna in the estuary, Megan ended up inadvertently finding what may turn out to be at least four new species of soft coral, possibly representing two new genera. Of 46 specimens, as many as six appeared to be unknown. Descriptions of these new species suggest that they are quite beautiful, exhibiting rich pink, orange and yellow coloration.
In what could be taken as a bit of an understatement, she explains that “we know precious little about the ecology of soft corals in temperate regions such as Tasmania. Identifying the species is really just the start of understanding their role in these complex ecosystems.”
To see her work in the sponge gardens of the Tamar Estuary, see the following video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hU5H1_FkZms.