Scientists Take a Plunge, Discover New 'Crown of Light' Coral Species off Coast of Oman

An orange coral with white rings and petal-like tentacles

Scientists encountered ocean royalty when they discovered a new, rare coral species off the coast of the Arabian peninsula. 

The sea creature (Ofwegenum coronalucis) has been dubbed Ofwegen’s “crown of light soft coral,” due to the white rings on its petal-like tentacles that reflect a wreath of sunlight underwater. Each coral polyp has eight tentacles that blossom outward, like a flower. 

"Crown of Light" coral species
Ofwegenum coronalucis. Photo courtesy of C.S. McFadden via McFadden, Benayahu and Samimi-Namin (2024)

The team of national scientists included Catherine McFadden, Yehuda Benayahu, and Kaveh Samimi-Namin. All have them have dedicated their careers to studying and preserving phylum Cnidaria like jellyfish, hydra, sea anemones, and — of course — corals. 

“These are very beautiful animals that are almost completely unknown,” McFadden told the Miami Herald after their discovery was published in the ZooKeys scientific journal this week. 

According to the scientists, the unique species is incredibly rare and has only been spotted in three reefs near Mirbat, a coastal town in southwestern Oman. 

Four examples of the "crown of light" coral species
Photos courtesy of C.S. McFadden via McFadden, Benayahu and Samimi-Namin (2024)

New discoveries like these give hope to scientists that there may be countless coral and other primitive sea creatures waiting to be found. Coral is crucial for sheltering organisms and regulating carbon dioxide levels in marine ecosystems. 

Although climate change and pollution has had a definitive impact on coral reefs, the world has responded with numerous conservation efforts, through electronic currents and underwater gardening efforts

McFadden’s team are not the only ones on the lookout for new creatures below the watery depths. Nonprofit organizations like Oceana are dedicated to ocean exploration and conservation. 

“We only have good information on less than 5% of the world’s oceans, and maybe sparse information on another 10%,” deep sea explorer Ricardo Aguilar told Oceana

As scientists uncover new findings in oceans and seas around the world, they can also learn new ways to protect them. 

“We know so little about the biodiversity in our oceans,” McFadden said. “There are undoubtedly hundreds of thousands to millions of species living in the oceans that are still unknown to us.”

Header image courtesy of C.S. McFadden via McFadden, Benayahu and Samimi-Namin (2024)

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January 12, 2024 12:16 PM
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