Unexpected high abundance of aragonite-forming Nanipora (Octocorallia: Helioporacea) at an acidified volcanic reef in southern Japan

Nanipora Miyazaki & Reimer, 2015 is a recently discovered genus of aragonite-skeleton producing octocorals closely related to the blue coral genus Heliopora de Blainville, 1830. Since its discovery, Nanipora has been reported from coral reefs in Okinawa, Japan, and Thailand, and from seagrass beds in the northern South China Sea. However, it remains little known and studied. Here, we report on the unexpected discovery of an abundance of Nanipora colonies in shallow waters less than 2-m deep around a CO2 vent from the uninhabited volcanic island of Iwotorishima, Okinawa, in southern Japan. Nanipora colonies were found covering both coral rubble and hard substrates, alongside a few soft coral and zoantharian species. Polyps were pale white in color with none brown or darker in coloration as in some recent reports. As the original description of Nkamurai from Zamami Island in Okinawa describes the species as azooxanthellate, as the current Iwotorishima specimens also appear to be, and recently reported specimens from Thailand, Dongsha Atoll, and Yaeyama are zooxanthellate, it may be that there are more than one Nanipora species; the type species Nkamurai that is also likely at Iwotorishima, and a zooxanthellate species that constitutes the other records. Although Nanipora is not well studied, its presence at this volcanic CO2 seep suggests it has the ability to survive under unique and extreme environmental conditions, rendering it as a potentially important subject of study in the face of increasing ocean acidification.

Reimer J. D., Kurihara H., Ravasi T., Ide Y., Izumiyama M. & Kayanne H., 2021. Unexpected high abundance of aragonite-forming Nanipora (Octocorallia: Helioporacea) at an acidified volcanic reef in southern Japan. Marine Biodiversity 51: 19. doi: 10.1007/s12526-021-01165-0. Article.

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