New limu species found deep in Hawaiian waters


Some local researchers are working to discover all they can about some 60 new species of limu, or algae, found deep within Hawaiian waters.

“This is one of the most extensive studies of mesophotic (existing in low light) algae to date,” said Alison Sherwood, a UH Manoa professor in the Department of Botany. “We have nearly 2,000 specimens of limu collected from 100 to more than 600 ft. deep across the entire Hawaiian Archipelago. This will redefine our understanding of limu diversity in Hawaii and will aid understanding of floras across the entire Indo-Pacific.”

The specimens were collected from coral reefs at depths of 100 to more than 500 feet from all over the Hawaiian Archipelago. 

“The limu form beds and meadows in this deep, blue water, and some appear to form habitat for fish and invertebrates,” said Heather Spalding, a co-principal investigator on the grant project. “These new species aren’t just tiny fuzz on the reef-they’re huge blades of brightly-colored red, brown and green limu. It’s like a garden down there, with new species poking up around every reef. We’re just on the tip of the iceberg in terms of understanding algal diversity in the mesophotic.”

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