Dr Zoe Richards talks about the incredible diversity found in the coral reefs of the Kimberley of north-west Australia.
Explore magazine online
Kimberley corals exposed
Hi there, I’m Zoe Richards, Chadwick Biodiversity Fellow, from the Australian Museum. I would like to show you some of the corals I’ve been collecting from the wonderful Kimberley region.
The Kimberley really is the last frontier, both on land and underwater. What I’m finding in the coral biodiversity in the Kimberley is blowing my mind; it’s changing our known distribution records; we’re getting new records for Australia and new records for WA.
So ordinarily corals are growing on hard substrate. This particular coral [Dendrophylla axifuga] is quite interesting because I found this up in the shallows on soft substrate. It’s really quite rare to find this one and it was in such a strange habitat that this really is a very interesting find.
These coralliths are free-living, mobile balls of coral that have live tissue growing around the entire colony surface. I found four different types of coral that were doing this free-living form.
The Kimberly has huge tides, up to 11 metres, so the water conditions are actually quite turbid. Most corals like clear water, particularly these Acropora species which are very fast growing, branching corals. We’re finding these really quite abundant in the Kimberley, growing in these turbid conditions.
This is Echinopora ashmorensis. It has these very interesting and unique tube formations.
This is a Tubipora. It has these small tubes all joined together and this brilliant red colour. Previously we thought there was only one species of Tubipora, which had a global distribution, but as we’re looking into it, it seems as though there could indeed be more than one species.
There’s an incredible coral reef system in the Kimberley that needs to be conserved.
Dr Zoe Richards, Chadwick Biodiversity Fellow, Australian Museum
Brendan Atkins, Explore magazine editor
This work was part of the Woodside Collection Project (Kimberley), managed by the Western Australian Museum and Woodside Energy Pty Ltd, with partner institutions the Australian Museum, Queensland Museum, Museum Victoria and the Western Australian Herbarium (Department of Conservation and Environment).
first published 23 August 2011
© Australian Museum 2011
Last Updated: 23 August 2011
Zoe Richards, low tide survey View full size
© Clay Bryce
Zoe Richards, diving in coral reef View full size
© Maria Beger
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