Federal scientists discover new coral species in underwater canyons off California’s coast

CaliforniaCoral.jpg

This photo released by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration shows a catshark egg nest showing yellow “mermaids purses,” which are sacs containing eggs. (AP Photo/National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration)

Scientists with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration say they’ve discovered a new species of deep-sea coral off the Northern California coast.

NOAA announced Wednesday that a research team using small submersibles found the coral in September near national marine sanctuaries off the coast of Sonoma County.

The coral from the genus Leptogorgia was discovered about 600 feet deep in underwater canyons close to the Gulf of Farallones and Cordell Bank national marine sanctuaries.

The Farallones sanctuary’s superintendent says studying these life forms helps determine the ecological importance of deep sea communities and the threats they face.

Scientists say they also found a “highly unusual” nursery area for catsharks and skates during their research.