Newly Discovered Deep Water Black Coral Can Live for Over 4,000 Years

Posted on July 8, 2015

Leiopathes annosa

Scientists have identified a new species of black coral that can live for over 4,000 years. The coral was found at depths of 1,000 to 1,600 feet throughout the Hawaiian Islands, including the Papahanaumokuakea Marine National Monument (PMNM). The Hawaii Undersea Research Lab's Pisces submersible was used to collect the coral specimens.

The new coral species has been named Leiopathes annosa. The word "annosa" is latin for long-lived. Deep water corals like L. annosa form growth rings that scientists can use to determine their age. Colonies of L. annosa can reach up to 1 meter in height. They have skeletal spines that are smooth and often multi-lobed.

PMNM Research Specialist Daniel Wagner, Ph.D., says in the announcement, "We know so little about the deep sea that most times we do not even know what to call the species that live there. Describing and assigning names to new species is an important first step to facilitate future research on these important yet greatly understudied organisms."

A research paper on the newly discovered coral species was published here (PDF file) in the journal, Zootaxa. You can watch a video of the black coral species here on papahanaumokuakea.gov.

Photo: NOAA/HURL/Chris Kelley
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