July 20, 2024

Newly Discovered Algae Species Sheds Light on Reef Systems

A groundbreaking discovery has been made by an international team of marine scientists in the Great Barrier Reef, revealing new insights into the protection and preservation of this world heritage-listed landmark. Led by Griffith University, the research team has identified and officially named four new species of algae within the Porolithon genus. This discovery challenges previous taxonomical assumptions and provides a deeper understanding of the ecological role of these algae within coral reef ecosystems.

Porolithon, a genus of crustose coralline algae, has long been recognized for its crucial ecological significance. These algae are responsible for cementing the delicate frameworks of coral reefs, sustaining marine biodiversity in tropical and subtropical waters. Traditionally, researchers identified branched, fruticose Porolithon specimens as Porolithon gardineri and massive, columnar forms as P. craspedium in the Indo-Pacific Ocean.

However, the recent study conducted by scientists from Griffith, James Cook University, the Australian Institute of Marine Science, and the USA and Korea has revealed a remarkable discovery. It turns out that neither P. gardineri nor P. craspedium is present in the eastern Australian waters. Instead, these specimens belong to four distinct genetic lineages, indicating the presence of four newly discovered species.

These new species can be distinguished based on their unique DNA sequences, as well as their thallus growth form, margin shape (attached or unattached), and internal anatomy. This finding challenges the traditional understanding of the algae within the Porolithon genus, emphasizing the need for further exploration and conservation of the Great Barrier Reef and its unique inhabitants.

Associate Professor Guillermo Diaz-Pulido, leader of the research team, highlights the importance of this discovery for the preservation of the delicate balance within the coral reef ecosystem. Porolithon species are highly sensitive to the impacts of ocean acidification and warming, making it urgent to recognize and document this newfound diversity. The study serves as a reminder that we cannot protect what we do not know. Therefore, continuous research and conservation efforts are vital for the preservation of the Great Barrier Reef and other remote coral reef areas.

The discovery of these new species not only adds to the rich biodiversity of the Great Barrier Reef but also underscores the importance of ongoing research and conservation efforts. The study was funded by the Australian Biological Resources Study (ABRS) and received support from the Reef Restoration and Adaptation Program (RRAP), the Australian Institute of Marine Science (AIMS), Parks Australia, and the Great Barrier Reef Foundation. The specimens have been deposited in the Queensland Herbarium, providing valuable resources for future research and conservation endeavors.


  1. Source: Coherent Market Insights, Public sources, Desk research
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