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New Species of Deep-Sea Coral Discovered Off California

SAN FRANCISCO — Scientists have discovered a new species of deep-sea coral in underwater canyons off the Northern California coast, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration announced Wednesday. A NOAA research team using small submersibles found the coral in September near national marine sanctuaries off the coast of Sonoma County, the agency said.

The coral from the genus Leptogorgia was discovered about 600 feet deep in the first intensive exploration of underwater canyons near the Gulf of Farallones and Cordell Bank national marine sanctuaries. Collecting data on the 4-inch-long white and red coral will help scientists determine the ecological importance of deep sea communities in the area and the threats they face, said the Farallones sanctuary's superintendent, Maria Brown. Before the research expedition two months ago, scientists knew little about the marine life in the area, NOAA said. After multiple dives in the area, researchers also found a "highly unusual" nursery area for catsharks.

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- The Associated Press