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New coral species found off Peru dazzles with fiery red color

  |   Feb. 4, 2014 at 5:58 PM
LIMA, Feb. 4 (UPI) -- Researchers at the Smithsonian Institution say scuba divers have found a new, fiery-red coral species off the coast of Peru's Paracas National Reserve.

The species could be unique to Peruvian waters, researchers at the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute and the University of Costa Rica reported Monday.

"This new species may be found nowhere else in the world," STRI marine biologist Hector Guzman said. "But coral reefs and coral communities in Peru have never been systematically studied. We expect more surprises as we look at new collections."

Scuba divers collected samples of the new coral species from rocky ledges at depths to 75 feet, and researchers said they also found bits of the bright red coral attached to mussels from a bay off the preserve's coast in a local fish market.

The coral has been named Psammogorgia hookeri to honor Yuri Hooker, a biologist and naturalist at the Cayetano Heredia Peruvian University in Lima.

"With logistical support from the Peruvian National Protected Areas Service, we're beginning to discover the amazing biodiversity of corals and marine invertebrates in the Peruvian Pacific," Hooker said. "It's mostly a matter of looking in the right places and inviting experts who can identify these relatively unknown and unstudied creatures."

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