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Rarifótica, a new zone of Coral Reefs

According to the article recently published in Scientific Reports, he has created a new layer in the ocean, "rarefied" (meaning "low light"), in order to describe what is there, in the reefs, the sustenance of the ecosystem depends on algae that are associated with corals to produce nutrients through photosynthesis. That's why sunlight is the crucial factor that explains how each layer of the ocean works in the reef environment.

Taking into account this, the classification of the ocean layers in the reefs would be as follows, according to research: on the surface would be the altifótica region, with the maximum amount of light, and that extends from 0 to 40 meters. There, the reefs are more abundant and the divers can submerge by their own means.

Below, the mesophotic region would begin, which would reach 150 meters, which would have an intermediate amount of light and which is limited by the maximum depth at which the corals can survive with the light that arrives. Between the 130 to 300 meters of depth the rarifótica zone would begin, with low amount of light. Further down, there would be the aphotic zone, where no photon arrives.

 

Exploring the darkness

The initial interest to submerge in this rather dark area, the rarifótica, was marked by the will to find out if the dark areas of the reefs are a refuge for the animals above. Especially because the health of coral reefs is in danger, due to, among other things, global warming.

Baldwin recalled that only a tiny fraction of the oceans has been studied, and that much of their biodiversity is concentrated in coral reefs. For this reason, the Smithsonian Institution has an ongoing observation project in the deepest and least explored parts of the reefs, which are the darkest, which is called the "Smithsonian's Deep Reef Observation Project" (DROP).

Thanks to this project, scientists have named six new genera of fish, 30 new species and have explored 0.2 square kilometers of reefs.

"About one in five fish found in the rarphytic zone of the Caribbean is a new species," Ross Robertson, co-author of the study, said in a statement. «Until now, my favorite is Haptoclinus dropi». This animal was cataloged by Baldwin and Robertson in 2013. For the moment, many more species already discovered await its description and cataloging.

This research has implications far beyond the Caribbean. "The ecosystems of the reefs located under the mesophotic zone are globally unexplored," says Baldwin. Now, thanks to its approach, it has been observed that the depths are more complex than thought. And because of that, there is a lot to discover and protect.

By ABC News