Biodiversity of Mesophotic Scleractinian corals in the Gulf of Eilat/Aqaba

The proposal calls for continued support of our last year's project in the framework of the ITI. It provides a summary of the original proposal including gaps in our knowledge, rationale, results, accomplishments and shortcomings of the 1st year of research and lists the major objectives for the 2nd year. Using Trimix technical diving (30-72 m depth), the planned sampling schedule was strictly carried out as planned for both morphological taxonomy and molecular bar-coding of mesophotic corals. Photography of the corals was carried in situ and in the lab, providing the framework for the planned field guide of "Mesophotic Corals of the Gulf of Aqaba". A list of coral species identified and photographed is provided including three species which comprise new records for the Red Sea and six species that are suspected as new. We are now in the process of electronically cataloging the corals sampled to be deposited in the National Natural History Collections at Tel Aviv University.

Objectives for the 2nd year: (a) Survey new sites along the Israeli and Jordanian coasts; (b) Complete the coral skeletal and tissue collection for the study of their morphological taxonomy and molecular barcoding; (c) Finalize taxonomic status of the corals examining collections in the Smithsonian; (d). Complete field and laboratory photographs for the mesophotic corals field guide.