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Anenome could be a new species

10 October 2007 - Wellington

Forest & Bird media release for immediate use

Anenome discovered by Wellington Bioblitz could be a new species

A tiny, many-tentacled anemone discovered by the Marine Bioblitz at Island Bay may be a previously undiscovered species.

Several of the five-centimetre-long pale sand-coloured tube anemones, with delicate spots on their 32 tentacles, were discovered by NIWA scientist Malcolm Francis living in sand burrows just off the beach at Wellington's Island Bay.

The discovery was made during a night dive that is part of the Marine Bioblitz - a month-long search for as many species as possible living in the marine environment off Wellington's southern coast.

Subsequent examination by Bioblitz scientists identified the creature as a tube anemone or cerianthid - and probably a previously undiscovered species Only one other type of cerianthid has ever been found in New Zealand, but that one is much bigger, has about twice as many tentacles, and is only found in Fiordland.

A world authority on cerianthids, Dr Tina Molodtsova, is coming from Russia in November and will attempt to identify the anemone from photographs and establish if the discovery is a world-first.

Marine Bioblitz co-ordinator Heather Anderson says the find is very exciting, especially if it is confirmed to be a totally new species.

She says the discovery of the anemone also demonstrates how important the proposed Kupe/Kevin Smith Marine Reserve - the area in which the Bioblitz is being conducted - will be in protecting Wellington's marine biodiversity.

"If we can find one entirely new species on Wellington's 'back doorstep' there could well be others that we are yet to find. Wellington's marine environment is home to an incredible variety of marine plants and animals, and the marine reserve will help to ensure that this rich biodiversity is properly protected."

So far the Bioblitz has identified 218 different species, ranging in size from a giant orca sighted off Island Bay to many kinds of microscopic one-celled algae.

Identification days, where the public can watch the scientists put plants and animals found during the Bioblitz under the microscope, will be held at Island Bay Community Centre on October 14 and 21 from 1-5pm, and the Bioblitz will end with a public celebration at Island Bay Surf Club on October 28.

* Marine Bioblitz is supported by Forest & Bird , Wellington City Council, NIWA, Department of Conservation, Dive HQ, Island Bay Divers, Splash Gordon, Te Papa, Victoria University, Centre for Marine Environmental and Economic Research and NZ Sea Adventures.

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