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30 new species found in Verde Island Passage

By: Ellalyn V. Ruiz

A team of scientists has uncovered more than 30 new species of sea slugs, sea urchins, and soft corals in the Verde Island Passage, between Batangas and Mindoro, proving the area’s significance as “the center of the center” of marine biodiversity in the world.

The Filipino-American team of marine experts, led by zoologist Dr. Terry Gosliner of the California Academy of Sciences, recently returned from a marine expedition in the Verde Island Passage, which led to the discovery of 30 nudibranch species, two sea urchins, and several new species of soft corals.

The diving teams explored both deep and shallow ecosystems to document species richness, evaluate ecosystem health, and gather data to support smarter ocean conservation strategies.

Verde Island Passage has been a long time regional focus of multiple expeditions by the academy, as it is the most biologically diverse water in the world. CAS researchers have visited the region since 1992 and have discovered over 1,000 species that are new to science.

During its recent visit, Gosliner said the team continued to survey the waters of Anilao, Batangas and conducted explorations from Romblon Island in the far eastern part of the Verde Island Passage.

“These new discoveries continue to reinforce that the Verde Island Passage has unmatched marine biodiversity and undisputedly is the center of the center of marine biodiversity. It also confirms that different parts of the Verde Island Passage have different species and each part of the VIP needs to be carefully managed to protect those unique species for coming generations,” Gosliner said.

The team also learned that the Verde Island Passage “functions as a reservoir of biodiversity to replenish damaged reefs elsewhere in the Philippines and the Coral Triangle.”

Coral Triangle Region is a global hotspot of marine biodiversity surrounded by six nations, which include the Philippines, Indonesia, Malaysia, Papua New Guinea, Timor-Leste, and Solomon Islands.

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