Muir et al. 2018

scientific article | Proc R Soc B

High species richness and lineage diversity of reef corals in the mesophotic zone

Muir PR, Wallace CC, Pichon, Bongaerts P


Coral reefs are increasingly threatened by thermal bleaching and tropical storm events associated with rising sea surface temperatures. Deeper habitats offer some protection from these impacts and may safeguard reef-coral biodiversity, but their faunas are largely undescribed for the Indo-Pacific. Here, we show high species richness of scleractinian corals in mesophotic habitats (30–125 m) for the northern Great Barrier Reef region that greatly exceeds previous records for mesophotic habitats globally. Overall, 45% of shallow-reef species (less than or equal to 30 m), 78% of genera, and all families extended below 30 m depth, with 13% of species, 41% of genera, and 78% of families extending below 45 m. Maximum depth of occurrence showed a weak relationship to phylogeny, but a strong correlation with maximum latitudinal extent. Species recorded in the mesophotic had a significantly greater than expected probability of also occurring in shaded microhabitats and at higher latitudes, consistent with light as a common limiting factor. The findings suggest an important role for deeper habitats, particularly depths 30–45 m, in preserving evolutionary lineages of Indo-Pacific corals. Deeper reef areas are clearly more diverse than previously acknowledged and therefore deserve full consideration in our efforts to protect the world's coral reef biodiversity.

Depth range
30- 125 m

Mesophotic “mentions”
44 x (total of 3945 words)

* Focused on 'mesophotic' depth range
* Focused on 'mesophotic coral ecosystem'


Scleractinia (Hard Corals)

Australia - Coral Sea

Remotely Operated Vehicle (ROV)
SCUBA (open-circuit or unspecified)

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