Coral Reefs Quickly Create New Species

BERLIN, Jan. 8 (UPI) — New species originated 50 percent more quickly in coral reefs than other tropical marine habitats during the last 540 million years, German scientists said.

Researchers at Humboldt University, Berlin, found coral reefs to be evolutionary “hotspots” that today are at risk from climate change, lead researcher Wolfgang Kiessling said.

“Our study shows that reefs are even more important than currently assumed. They are not only ecologically important for the marine environment, but also in an evolutionary sense,” Kiessling told the BBC in a story published Friday.

Kiessling, who likened coral reefs to rainforests in terms of enormous biodiversity, studied fossils dating to the Cambrian explosion to find the earliest evidence of animals that lived and died on the ocean floor.

The study, published in the journal Science, shows reefs are centers of marine biodiversity, said Carl-Gustaf Lundin, head of the marine programs at the International Union for Conservation of Nature.

Copyright 2010 by United Press International

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