New biodiversity memoir on the primnoid corals of New Zealand


A group of gorgonian octocorals that provide shelter for fish and invertebrates in the deep sea is the subject of NIWA’s latest Biodiversity Memoir.

Published since the 1950s, our biodiversity memoirs list and describe all known species within an animal group inhabiting New Zealand waters, accompanied by beautiful and detailed photographs.

The subjects of our latest memoir are shaped like trees, fans or bottle brushes and are susceptible to the impacts of fishing and seabed mining so knowledge of this group’s biodiversity is critical to improve their management.

Within New Zealand waters primnoid fauna is diverse and widespread and legally protected.

This is the third and final Biodiversity Memoir on primnoid octocorals of the New Zealand region and was written by Dr Stephen Cairns from the Smithsonian Institute and focuses on the genus Thouarella Gray.

A community of lemon-yellow, orange-brown, and beige colour morphs of the bottle brush form of the primnoid octocoral Thouarella variabilis (var. typical) Wright & Studer, 1889. [Photo by NIWA's deep towed image system DTIS at a depth of 862 m on Seamount 7, Macquarie Ridge from the NIWA Seamounts and CSIRO’s Biodiversity Voyages of Discovery research programmes]


Two additional primnoid species are also reported as new records for the New Zealand region: Metafannyella rigida sp. nov., and Dasystenella austasensis (Zapata-Guardiola & López-González, 2010). This brings the number of primnoid coral species known from primarily within the New Zealand Exclusive Economic Zone to 67, including 63 named and four unnamed species, the most species-rich family among the New Zealand Octocorallia.

The NIWA Biodiversity Memoir series describe the taxonomy of New Zealand marine life, mostly for invertebrates such as sponges, corals, marine worms, molluscs, crustaceans and sea stars. They highlight the uniqueness, strangeness and diversity in our waters while also providing the foundation for marine biological and ecological research.

The NIWA Biodiversity Memoir series is available for free download as PDF files.


Principal Technician - Marine Biology
Front cover of NIWA Biodiversity Memoir 133.
Metafannyella moseleyi (Wright & Studer, 1889) from 115 m in the Northland region. [Credit: Rob Stewart, NIWA. Oceans Survey 20/20 Bay of Islands.]  
Close up of the polyps of a specimen of Thouarella (Thouarella) brevispinosa Wright & Studer, 1889 and an associated anemone clinging to its branches, from a seamount at 1060 m deep on Macquarie Ridge. [Credit: Julian Finn, Museum Victoria. NIWA Seamounts & CSIRO Biodiversity Voyages of Discovery research programmes.]  
A branch of Thouarella (Thouarella) variabilis var. gracilis Wright & Studer, 1889 from the Hikurangi Margin, 940 m deep. [Credit: Owen Anderson, NIWA. NIWA Vulnerable Deep Sea Communities research programme.]