Each year brings changes in the aquarium industry, some large and some small. These changes may range from the release of a new line of aquarium filters to the discovery of a new species. Often, it isn’t until the end of the year that these changes are completely visible and this is the time when it is best to evaluate them. Every year sees trends in the way saltwater aquarium hobbyists stock or decorate their tanks. In this article you will find information regarding some of the top new species of corals from the year 2013. Not all of these species are available for the aquarium – some may never be – but it is always good to keep up with the news in your beloved hobby.
Types of Corals
If you aren’t familiar with the basics of corals, the rest of the information in this article won’t mean much to you. The truth of the matter is that species of corals are so numerous and varied, that it shouldn’t even come as a surprise when a single year brings the discovery of several new species. Corals are divided into two large categories: soft corals and hard corals. These categories are further divided into numerous groups.
Soft Corals: sea fans, sea rods, sea whips, sea plumes
Hard Corals: brain corals, star corals, elkhorn corals, staghorn corals, pillar corals, finger corals, lettuce corals
Soft corals are so-called because they don’t have the type of permanent, rigid skeletons that hard corals have. There are two categorizations for soft corals – gorgonians and black corals. Gorgonians attach themselves to a hard surface with a single anchor and branch out like a tree. Many species end up looking like nets or webbed branches, having names like “sea fan” or “sea plume.” Black corals, on the other hand, form polyps that build on top of each other to form a strong, wire-like skeleton.
Hard corals are divided into two categorizations – hydrocorals and stony corals. Hydrocorals are further divided into two groups: fire corals and lace corals. Fire corals are named for the stinging, burning sensation you get when you touch them. This sensation is caused by microscopic hairs that form on the polyps called nematocysts. Lace corals are named for their branched, skeleton-like appearance. Stony corals form the foundation of most tropical coral reefs – they grow a protective shell that forms around the soft body of the polyp. These corals grow in colonies and they are divided into six different groups: branching and pillar corals; brain corals; fleshy corals; flower and cup corals; leaf, plate and sheet corals; encrusting, mound and boulder corals.
New Coral Species
New species of coral aren’t typically discovered by accident – they are found during coral collecting, often in places off the beaten path. Some of the new species discovered in 2013 include:
· Echinophyllia tarae
· Balanopsammia wirtzi
· Favia camranensis
· Ctenactic triangularis
· Cryptophyton jedsmithi
Echinophyllia tarae = A new species of chalice coral, this coral is unique for having a prominent central corallite. This species was discovered in the Gambier Archipelago of French Polynesia in the South Pacific Ocean.
Balanopsammia wirtzi = This species of coral is a type of stony coral recently discovered in West Africa. While many corals come from coral reefs in deep waters, West Africa hides many unique species like this one in plain sight in shallow rock reefs and intertidal pools.
Favia camranensis = This is a newly discovered species of moon brain coral, found in Vietnam in the Hon Nai Reef in Cam Ranh Bay. This coral grows in colonies that resemble a roof of shingles, cascading down the sides from the root.
Ctenactic triangularis = A type of stony coral, this species is three-pronged, giving it a triangular shape. Examples of this species have been found in various regions throughout Japan and the northern Red Sea. Though it is uncertain as of yet, it is possible that this species is a mutant of pre-existing Ctenactis species.
Cryptophyton jedsmithi = This coral was discovered in the overhand of a tide pool in San Diego. The name “Cryptophyton” means “hidden creature,” a fitting name because this coral looks like little more than a brown film unless you look closely.
Cultivating a saltwater aquarium, particularly a reef aquarium, is both a joy and a challenge. Because it is your duty to keep your tank clean and healthy, you would do well to keep abreast of the latest news in the industry. Not only will you hear about new products, but you may also discover some new species that could fit well in your tank!