The California Academy of Sciences recently concluded a biodiversity expedition in the Philippines discovering over 300 new species including 200 marine invertebrates and 11 new fish. The six-week expedition focused most of the marine exploration on the Verde Island Passage, a deep-water channel separating the island of Luzon from Mindoro.
“If the Philippines is the center of marine biodiversity, this area is the center of the center. It’s been very stable for so long that marine life has really flourished,” Dr Terry Gosliner, curator at the California Academy of Sciences, said the Philippines’ complex geological history made it a goldmine of new life forms. “This is the place where the action is. The Philippines has more diversity on land and sea than any other place on earth.”
Among the discovery was a shark whose markings make it appear camouflaged for the desert. The team discovered several small catsharks with brown backs, dark stripes and white bellies, colors which have never been seen on any other shark before.
Gosliner has been studying the Philippines for 20 years and says he is encouraged that many protected shallow water areas are in better shape than when he first arrived. However, the expedition was concerned by the state of deeper waters.
“There were a lot fewer fishes than I would have expected and a lot more plastic,” said Goslinger. “We used nets dragging from our trawler to explore areas deeper than 80 metres and each of our 40 trawls brought up lots of plastic in their nets – in some cases more plastic than life. The ocean is being overfished and clearly used as a garbage dump.”
[via The Guardian UK]