Hong Kong Baptist University’s Discovery of New Species of Corals and Nudibranchs Reflects Hong Kong’s Rich Marine Biodiversity


HONG KONG SAR –News Direct– Hong Kong Baptist University

HONG KONG SAR – Media OutReach – October 25, 2021 – Hong Kong Baptist University (HKBU) biologists discovered in Hong Kong waters a new species of hard coral and two new species of nudibranchs, a type of marine mollusk, which have never been identified elsewhere in the world. Discoveries of new species from these commonly seen animal groups are a living reflection of Hong Kong’s rich marine biodiversity.

Professor Qiu Jianwen (right) and Mr. Yiu King-fung, research team member and postgraduate research student (left) present the new species of corals and nudibranchs.

The new marine species were identified by research teams led by Professor Qiu Jianwen, professor in the biology department at HKBU. Descriptions of new species of corals and nudibranchs have been published in academic journals Zootaxons and Zoological studies, respectively.

First new hard coral species discovered and named in Hong Kong in last two decades

The new species of coral belongs to the genus Tubastrea, which is commonly referred to as solar coral because of its bright orange polyps (individuals making up the colony) and the circle of tentacles that surround its mouth. HKBU biologists discovered the new species during underwater studies at Breaker Reef in eastern Hong Kong waters in the summer of 2020.

The team named the coral Tubastraea megacorallita, with “mega” and “corallite”Meaning“ large ”and“ skeletal cut ”respectively. The name of the species reflects the fact that it has the largest and most structurally complex corallite of the eight recognized Tubastrea species around the world. This species forms small colonies of 3 to 12 polyps sharing a common calcareous skeleton.

Solar corals are different from most reef-building corals in that they do not harbor symbiotic algae that produce energy through photosynthesis. Instead, these corals gain energy and nutrients by capturing small animals called zooplankton in seawater using their tentacles. While reef-building corals in Hong Kong typically inhabit shallower water to a depth of 10 meters, solar corals live in deeper water at a depth of between 10 and 30 meters.

“Although 98 species of hard coral have been recorded in Hong Kong, the last time a new species of coral was discovered in Hong Kong waters was in 2000. It has been over 20 years a year. new species of hard coral discovered and named in Hong Kong, “he added. said Professor Qiu.

Two new species of nudibranchs

Nudibranchs, commonly known as sea slugs, are gastropod molluscs that only have a shell in the larval stage. They are eye-catching animals and they can often be spotted on coral reefs due to their vibrant colors.

The HKBU team also discovered two species of coral-eating nudibranchs in Hong Kong waters, both belonging to the genus Phestille which has only nine recognized species before these discoveries. One of them, named Phestilla goniophaga, was collected on Sharp Island and Chek Chau. Word “goniophage “ derived from the name of the host coral, “Goniopora“, which is commonly known as flowerpot coral, and the Latin word”phage”, Which means“ to eat ”.

Phestilla goniophaga is quite tall and his body is about three centimeters long. It is distinguished from other species of the genus by the large number of long finger-like projections, with brown and white stripes called cerata, and the rounded white bump on its back. The bump resembles the mouth of the host coral, while the cerata resembles the tentacles of the coral. This mimicry makes it difficult for its potential predators, such as fish, to spot them. Its egg masses, however, are bright orange in color and can normally be found stuck to the coral skeleton.

The other newly discovered species of nudibranch is smaller in size and its body is less than a centimeter long. It lays eggs and feeds on the tissues of the coral leaf Pavona decussata. It has a white body with brown stripes and exhibits excellent mimicry against the color pattern of its coral host. He’s been nominated Phestilla fuscostriata, with the epithet of species adopting the Latin words “Fucus” and “striatus”, which means “brown” and “streaked”.

This new species was discovered during the cultivation of coral leaf samples taken from Sharp Island during a study of coral bleaching mechanisms. The HKBU team discovered the new species of nudibranch and its crescent-shaped white egg masses after noticing the wounds on the coral’s surface caused by its feeding.

While the seas around Hong Kong are only 1,651 square kilometers, the territory is home to about six thousand marine species, or a quarter of all marine species recorded in China.

The work carried out by Professor Qiu’s team highlights Hong Kong’s rich biodiversity and reflects the urgent need to train young local talents to implement the Hong Kong Biodiversity Strategy and Action Plan.

Contact details

Hong Kong Baptist University

Christina Wu from the Office of Communication and Public Relations

+852 3411 7828

[email protected]

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See the source version on newsdirect.com: https://newsdirect.com/news/hong-kong-baptist-universitys-discovery-of-new-coral-and-nudibranch-species-reflects-hong-kongs-rich-marine – biodiversity-778430726


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