Gal Eyal, Department of Zoology, Tel Aviv University | Israel Taxonomy Initiative

Taxonomy of deep (mesophotic) corals from Israel

Tropical coral reefs are among the most spectacular biological structures on earth. The order Scleractinia, constitutes ca.1,300 species, is mostly described from shallow reefs (<30 meters). The study of mesophotic reefs (30-150 meters) is still lacking, mainly because of technical difficulties. Shallow reefs suffer more and more from anthropogenic pressures and climate change, consequently, loss of biodiversity in global and local scales. As a result, scientists began to look for ways to minimize this phenomenon and reduce the devastating effects on the environment. One-way is to explore the mesophotic reefs and to examine whether these are indeed providing 'refuge' or/and 'source' of shallow corals.
The objectives of this study are to (1) perform an in depth taxonomical study of mesophotic corals in Israel (2) establish a collection of mesophotic coral skeletons and tissues (3) assess the potential connectivity between shallow and mesophotic coral populations and (4) produce a field guide of mesophotic corals from Israel.
The research will encompass classical and molecular taxonomy, at each of the sampling sites. Coral characterization and diversity will be tested from samples and photographic surveys. The coral skeleton and tissue collections will be deposited in the National Collections of Natural History at Tel Aviv University.