The Italian Almanac

black coral

Black Coral

Researchers have discovered the largest forest of black coral in the world off the coast of the southern Italian region of Calabria, the Institute for Environmental Protection and Research (ISPRA) said. Marine biologists found almost 30,000 colonies of Antipathella subpinnata coral present at depths of between 50 and 100 metres near the town of Scilla. ISPRA described the discovery as ``extraordinary``. Black coral takes its name from its dark-coloured skeleton and many species are highly sought-after for their use in jewellery.

ISPRA researchers, who are using a robot to investigate the sea bed, said they also found five colonies of an extremely rare species of black coral, Antipathes dichotoma, of which only five samples have ever been collected and studied in the world. The last sample was taken from the Gulf of Naples in 1946 and donated to Harvard University. ``This is the first time these rare and protected species have been observed and studied in their natural habitat thanks to the sophisticated robot,`` said project chief Simonepietro Canese.

Canese said the robot could shoot photos and videos as well as take samples of the species it encounters. The project to survey Calabria`s marine diversity began in 2005 and will continue until next year. The town of Scilla overlooks the Strait of Messina and is traditionally held to be the home of Scylla, a sea monster in Greek mythology who together with Charybdis terrorised sailors trying to pass through the narrow channel.