Bali Coral Reefs Reveal Nine New Species

Heteroconger new garden eel, one of nine new species identified through Conservation International’s Bali Rapid Assessment Program.
Heteroconger, a new species of garden eel, one of nine new species identified through Conservation International’s Bali Rapid Assessment Program. (Image credit: © Conservation International/Mark Erdmann)

A bubble coral that resembles underwater daisies and a decorated garden eel are among the nine potentially new species discovered in Bali's coral reefs, researchers just announced. The downside: The divers found few reef sharks, possibly signaling an unhealthy reef.

The nine species were found in the reefs outside of Bali, Indonesia, during a two-week survey, as a part of the Rapid Assessment Program (RAP), led by Conservation International. The surveys assessed reef health and will be used by the Indonesian government to decide which reefs should be identified as "Marine Protected Areas."

During the survey, researchers identified eight species of fish and one species of coral that hadn't been observed before. Among these potentially new species documented were two types of cardinalfish, two varieties of dottybacks, a garden eel, a sand perch, a fang blenny, a new species of goby and a previously unknown Euphyllia bubble coral (which resembles a patch of daisies). Researchers still need to confirm that these are new species, by comparing with known species. [See images of the new species ]

The new species were just a subset of all the life researchers have observed since 2008. They documented a total of 953 species of reef fish and 397 species of coral. The coral they observed was fairly healthy, with a seven-to-one ratio of live to dead coral.

"We carried out this present survey in 33 sites around Bali," Mark Erdmann, senior advisor for the CI Indonesia marine program, said in a statement. "There was a tremendous variety of habitats, surprisingly high levels of diversity and the coral reefs appeared to be in an active stage of recovery."

The reefs seem to be recovering but they are still in dire need of protection. A lack of sharks could be a bad sign, since they are an integral part of the healthy reefs. "This RAP survey highlights how important these Marine Protected Areas are," Erdmann said.

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Jennifer Welsh

Jennifer Welsh is a Connecticut-based science writer and editor and a regular contributor to Live Science. She also has several years of bench work in cancer research and anti-viral drug discovery under her belt. She has previously written for Science News, VerywellHealth, The Scientist, Discover Magazine, WIRED Science, and Business Insider.