This corallimorpharian (Corynactis sp.) with tentacles and mouth protruding was found at Pulau Ubin as part of a study to establish the diversity and distribution of corallimorpharians in Singapore.
This corallimorpharian (Corynactis sp.) with tentacles and mouth protruding was found at Pulau Ubin as part of a study to establish the diversity and distribution of corallimorpharians in Singapore. NUS website

At a time when the world is losing its coral reefs owing to climate change that is making world oceans warmer, Singapore researchers who are studying the biodiversity of the naked corals to establish the diversity and distribution of Corallimorpharia in Singapore, stumbled upon two species, which are new to science.

When the tide goes back in the seashores of Singapore, not many animals are as inconspicuous as the corallimorpharian, which forms slimy blobs when emerged. But when these anemone-like creatures go underwater, they spread open their oral discs, exposing the upturned mouths, tentacles and intricately-textured discs that can have very distinct and beautiful forms.

But what makes them interesting is, these ocean creatures are neither hard coral, soft coral nor anemone, but have been dubbed 'naked' corals. As per National University of Singapore (NUS), they got this name as they have a close affiliation to stony corals and "for how coral reefs could look like as the oceans acidify under climate change, stripping hard corals of their skeletons."

Since the facts related to the biodiversity of these naked corals are very less due to their inconspicuous nature Oh Ren Min, an NUS Bachelor of Environmental Studies undergraduate student carried out a study, which documented these animals as part of her Undergraduate Research Opportunities Programme in Science project.

During this research, Ren was supervised by Assistant Professor Huang Danwei from NUS Biological Sciences and collaborated with citizen scientists to establish the diversity and distribution of corallimorpharians.

The researchers combined both morphological and DNA sequencing methods to accurately identify species. When the team analysed the local field collections and observational data shared by citizen scientists, they discovered six species and characterised each of them in detail.

It should be mentioned that two of these species, Corynactis sp. and Discosoma sp., are likely new to science. "These findings highlight citizen science as a promising approach to support conventional survey methods for characterising marine biodiversity in Singapore," NUS stated.

But when we are talking about corals, it is important to know some gruesome facts about these species which are currently facing surviving issues due to climate change.

The microscopic plants that live within the tissues of the corals, give them the colour and most of their nourishment. But if the sea temperature rises by a degree or two, the corals discharge their plant partners. Which means, they will lose the main source of food and then turn white.

In Australia's Great Barrier Reef, where the sea is unusually warm and caused many of the reefs to be bleach in this way. So, if the ocean temperature continues to rise, then the coral reefs will starve and eventually die.

The CO2 not only causing global warming but also making the seas more acidic and no reefs and no reefs can survive both changes. It will also become very challenging for habitants of coral reefs.

The study has been published in the journal Raffles Bulletin of Zoology.