Poster was prepared for the Australian Marine Science Association Conference, 1-5 July 2012 http://www.nerpmarine.edu.au/news/hub-researchers-convene-4-amsa-symposia
Deep sea reefs are often dominated by a single habitat forming species (Cairns, 1983). The stylasterid coral Errina spp. have been identified as key structural species in Antarctica (Post et al, 2010), the South West Atlantic (Bax et al, in prep), New Zealand’s fiord's (Miller et al, 2004), and in southern Chile’s Patagonian fiord's (Haussermann & Forsterra, 2006).
Errina antarctica is distributed throughout Patagonia and the peninsula region of Antarctica. Due to the phenomenon of Deep Water Emmergence (DWE), common of fiord systems, E. antarctica occurs in shallow waters. The extensive abundance (±80% coverage) and maximum colony size (40 cm) is exceptionally high compared to cold-water coral accumulations elsewhere.
The closely related Antarctic Errina corals; E. fissurata, E. laterorifa and E. gracilis are considered circum-Antarctic, and often occur in sympatry (Cairns, 1983), in dense field-like aggregations (Bax & Miller, in prep), at depths greater then 450m (Post et al, 2010). Sampling in Antarctica is extremely challenging, sample sizes and experimental design are often less than ideal as a result. Hence, the shallow coral fields of the Patagonian fiords provide the unique opportunity to gain in-sight into the dispersal capacity of corals in more inaccessible ecosystems such as sea-mount and submarine ridges in Antarctica.