Marine Treasure Trove Discovered

Posted on September 19, 2006

MSNBC.com reports that a treasure trove of marine life has been discovered off the coast of New Guinea. Researchers are calling it "the most biodiverse marine area on the planet."
"Six of our survey sites, which are areas the size of two football fields, had over 250 species of reef-building coral each - that's more than four times the number of coral species of the entire Caribbean Sea," he added.

The entire area covers 45 million acres off a peninsula in northwest New Guinea. Researchers have counted 1,200 species of fish there and 600 species of reef-building coral - the latter equal to 75 percent of the world's known total.
One of the new species is a variety of "walking shark" or epaulette shark.
During two surveys earlier this year, Conservation International and Indonesian experts found at least 36 new species of fish, coral and mantis shrimp in the waters, which are peppered with 2,500 islands and submerged reefs. The area also includes the largest Pacific leatherback turtle nesting area in the world, and is visited by whales, orcas and several dolphin species.

Two of the new species are members of the epaulette shark family, which distinguishes itself by sometimes using its fins to scamper away. Their name comes from the fact that they have two large round spots near their heads that look like epaulettes, the shoulder ornaments on military uniforms.
As is typical in our overpopulated world even remote areas like this face threats. Commercial fishing and the use of dynamite and cyanide during fishing are a couple of the threats facing the amazing find. More information and photos of the region can be found here on the Conservation International website. Conservation International calls the region the Bird's Head Seascape, located off the coast of Indonesia's Papua Province.

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