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Thursday, September 26

New coral species discovered from Andaman and Nicobar Islands in India

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Ctenactis triangularis from Andaman and Nicobar Islands
Image Credit: C Raghunathan

Shedding light to the rich but unexplored marine biodiversity of India, Scientists of the Zoological Survey of India described a new species of coral reef, Ctenactis triangularis from Andaman and Nicobar Islands of India. The new species which belongs to the family of mushroom corals, adds a fourth member to the Ctenactis genus of corals.

“The first specimen of the species was collected from Rutland Island from South Andaman by snorkeling and skin-diving", said the scientists. Later another specimen of the same coral was observed at the North Bay in South Andaman in December 2008. Researchers were able to spot the same species again after two years, in 2010, off the coast of Elephant Beach in Havelock Island.

Tamal Mondal and C. Raghunathan , scientists at the Andaman and Nicobar Regional Centre of Zoological Survey of India situated at Port Blair have reported and described the identity of the new species.

Distinguishing features of Ctenactis triangularis

According to the ZSI scientists, the newly described species has characteristics which make it different from all the three members of the genus previously reported by other studies.
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Ctenactis triangularis
Image Courtesy: JOTT

The discovery which is published in the Journal of Threatened Taxa reveals that three characteristics make the new species different from its closest relatives.

The major feature is the triangular, flat shaped skeleton or corallum which makes it different. According t the study, ‘divisible mouth fossa, spinulose costal spines and cylindrical septal teeth’ also make it distinguished from other members of its genus.

To underscore one of its most visible distinguishing features – its flat triangular skeleton, the scientists have named it as triangularis. “The species has been named after the triangle-shaped arm like coralla, which gives a unique morphological character to distinguish it from other related species”, says the study.

Conservation Status of Ctenactis triangularis

Despite the new discovery, the future of the coral reefs off the coast of Andaman and Nicobar are likely bleaker, points out the study. “Threats, which can be categorized as natural and anthropogenic, to the reef biodiversity, have been encountered for a long time.”, it says.

According to the researchers, the new species belong to Scleractinian corals which are protected under CITES Appendix II which curbs the transnational smuggling of these corals. Moreover, they are also included in the Schedule I of protected organisms of Indian Wildlife Act, 1972. 

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