lTHIRUVANANTHAPURAM: An invasive species of soft coral which can adversely impact the ecological balance on the seabed has been discovered off Kovalam and Kanyakumari coasts.
The Snowflake Coral (Carijoa riisei) was discovered during a research conducted by the Valiyathura-based Friends of Marine Life (FML). Researcher and FML convener Robert Panipilla said that the species is capable of smothering other life forms such as corals and sponges and some forms of molluscs.
The Snowflake Coral colonies were discovered during a documentation and assessment of marine biodiversity led by FML in 25 locations in Kollam, Thiruvananthapuram and Kanyakumari. ‘’We received a tip-off from local fishermen Samkutty and Sudhi about a new phenomenon they had encountered during diving. They did not know what it was,’’ Panipilla said.
In Kovalam, the Carijoa riisei colony covers an area of 100 sq ft at a depth of ten metres, and in Enayam, Kanyakumari, at a depth of 18 metres. First reported in Hawaii in 1972, the Snowflake Coral has since been reported in India from the Andaman and Nicobar Islands, the Gulf of Mannar and the Gulf of Kutch.
‘’What is important is that in Kovalam it has been reported well within 500 metres from the shore, which is extremely rich in biodiversity. Equally important is that such developments are not monitored by our agencies. This invasive species can pose a threat to coral reef colonies, sponges and similar forms of underwater life,’’ he said.
The FML divers, led by its executive member Sreenivasu, were able to obtain detailed underwater footages of the Snowflake Coral colonies. To look at, the corals are simply magnificent, with wavy red branches spotted with white polyps. From local fishermen’s accounts, this soft coral must have appeared within the past two years. ‘’There are also possibly poisonous, because the skin on Sreenivasu’s hand started itching and swelled up after he came into contact with it,’’ Panipilla said.
- Invasive species of soft coral - Snowflake Coral (Carijoa riisei) - discovered.
- The coral can affect marine biodiversity.
- Discovery made by Valiyathura-based Friends of Marine Life.
- In Kovalam, the Snowflake Coral Colony discovered at a depth of 10 metres.