Researchers from the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa Department of Botany have discovered hundreds of potentially new species of fungi in the deep coral ecosystem in the ʻAuʻau channel off Maui, Hawaiʻi. Mesophotic coral ecosystems (MCE) are generally found at depths between 130–500 feet and possess abundant plant (algal) life as well as new fish species. The mysteries of these reefs are only recently being revealed through technological advances in closed circuit rebreather diving. Previously overlooked—being too precarious for conventional SCUBA and too shallow to justify the cost of frequent submersible dives—mesophotic reefs continuously disclose breathtaking levels of biodiversity with each dive, yielding species and behavioral interactions new to science.
The UH Mānoa Hawaiʻi Undersea Research Laboratory (HURL) used the Pisces V submersible to collect native algae from the mesophotic reefs in the ʻAuʻau channel. Using the DNA sequencing facility at the UH Mānoa Hawaiʻi Institute of Marine Biology, Benjamin Wainwright, lead author of the study and UH Mānoa botany postdoctoral researcher, and colleagues determined which species of fungus were associated with the native algae.