New coral species discovered off coast
A potentially new species of black coral and a rare sponge reef have been discovered in the deep sea off the west coast.
A team of scientists from the State's Marine Institute believe they made a number of exciting discoveries in the deep ocean about 450km off the coast of Co Galway during a three-week expedition.
Using a remotely operated submarine robot that scans and videos the ocean's depths, the team not only found the deep waters are a haven for delicate and rare deep-sea black coral, they may have stumbled on a new species.
Using a high resolution seabed mapping program, the team also found what they believe is a sponge reef on the Rockall Bank, which is extremely rare and only previously recorded off the Atlantic coast of Canada.
The cold water reefs are vitally important ecosystems that are home to a wide range of marine animals - from sponges, sea fans, starfish and crustaceans to a variety of fish - according to chief scientist David O'Sullivan.
"We are very pleased to discover what appear to be new coral species and a rare sponge reef, neither of which has been previously documented in Irish waters.
"These sensitive habitats are very important and this study is key to getting a better understanding of Ireland's deep sea."