Scientists Just Discovered a 310-Mile Coral Reef Corridor in the Gulf of Mexico

A taste of what the team found in the Corazones reef, which they discovered this year.
Photo: Courtesy of Leonardo Ortiz Lozano

In the Gulf of Mexico, scientists have found five new coral reefs forming a so-called coral reef corridor. The team of scientists from the University of Veracruz and Mexico’s National Institute of Technology announced their findings earlier this month, reminding us there’s still so much we don’t know about the underwater world.

The five coral reefs— Corazones, Pantepec South, Piedras Altas, Los Gallos, and Camaronera—join a number of other reefs to make up the Reef Corridor of the Southwest Gulf of Mexico, which stretches from near the Tamiahua Lagoonin the state of Veracruz into the Gulf. The scientists have speculated about the existence of the corridor for years, and this discovery confirms it. This corridor stretches at least 310 miles, said Leonardo Ortiz Lozano, a researcher with the University of Veracruz who made the discovery alongside Ana Gutierrez of the National Institute of Technology.

This corridor offers incredible biological productivity for this region, Ortiz told Earther. The reefs offer habitat for a number of species, fueling an incredibly biodiverse ecosystem. The region is currently unprotected, bu the scientists who discovered the corridor want to change that before the oil and gas industry moves into this part of the Gulf. 

More coral found in the Corazones reef.
Photo: Courtesy of Leonardo Ortiz Lozano

“We want the coral corridor to be officially recognized to protect it from the fossil fuel industry,” Ortiz said.

This group of researchers is now working to protect the corridor in coordination with the Mexican Center for Environmental Law. The fishing industry and sedimentation from runoff are threatening the reefs, but the ecologists are mindful about creating protections that won’t sacrifice the well-being of the fishing industry that’s built a dependence on the thriving ecosystem, which includes sponges, crustaceans, sea turtles, and sharks.

“What’s most important is that these sites are where hundreds of fishermen receive their nourishment and work,” Ortiz told Earther. “It’s important to protect these sites, but it’s necessary to maintain the fishing industry.”

A type of coral found in Los Gallos, another reef the team found.
Photo: Courtesy of Leonardo Ortiz Lozano

And of course the threat of climate change is looming over coral reefs, many of which are already feeling its impacts around the world. Warmer waters have caused waves of coral bleaching in the Gulf of Mexico. When corals bleach, they expel algae (a main source of food) as a response to the added stress. In other words, they essentially die.

Currently, these new reefs are scattered within and outside of protected areas. Setting up protections for all the reefs is a solid first step to ensuring they survive.

Another coral formation in Corazones, one of the reefs recently discovered.
Photo: Courtesy of Leonardo Ortiz Lozano


more recommended stories

  • Smoke Has Blotted Out the Sun in São Paulo as the Amazon Burns

    Smoke from human-ignited fires across the.

  • Anti-Protest Laws Are a Sign of Weakness

    Photo: AP Here is a simple.

  • Icelanders Mourn Loss of Okjökull Glacier With Ceremony, Plaque

    The shrinking of the Okjökull glacier.

  • Big Donors Are Pulling Out of Brazil’s Amazon Fund; That Could Spell Trouble for the Rainforest

    Photo: Getty Norway and Germany have.

  • Portugal Is Using Goats to Prepare for Wildfires, But There’s Not Enough Shepherds

    Goats used to clear brush in.

  • Elizabeth Warren’s Latest Plan Tackles U.S. Injustices Against Tribes and Their Lands

    Photo: Getty Elizabeth Warren is a.

  • Invasive Pests Are Devastating American Forests at an Alarming Rate

    New findings show that invasive species.

  • Hundreds Dead, a Million Displaced as Monsoon Rains Inundate India

    Look at all that water.Photo: AP.

  • Newark’s Lead-Tainted Water Crisis Is Getting Worse

    Photo: AP When Al Moussab had.

  • A Coalition of 22 States Are Suing the Trump Administration Over Its Weak Coal Rule

    New York State attorney general Letitia.

  • Lightning Struck Near the North Pole as the Arctic Continues to Unravel

    Photo: AP In the scheme of.

  • Endangered Species Act Faces Gutting by Trump Administration

    Photo: Getty At a time when.

  • So, Salmon Cannons Are A Thing

    Photo: Jeff Mitchell (Getty) A viral.

  • At Least 22 Dead, Over a Million Reported Displaced as Typhoon Lekima Makes Landfall in Eastern China

    At least 22 deaths have been.

  • Trump Administration Authorizes ‘Cyanide Bombs’ to Kill Feral Hogs. Seriously.

    Photo: Eric Gay (AP) On Thursday.

  • Mauna Kea’s Thirty Meter Telescope Is the Latest Front in the New Fight for Indigenous Sovereignty

    Native Hawaiian activists pray at the.

  • Twin Typhoons Approach East Asia With Terrifying Force

    Super Typhoon Lekima and Typhoon KrosaGIF:.

  • Welp, Using Volcanoes to Understand Geoengineering Might Not Really Work

    Eruption of Mount Pinatubo in the.

  • If You Think 30-50 Feral Hogs Sounds Bad, Just Wait

    Photo: Eric Gay (AP) Hey, it’s.

  • A Global Water Emergency Is Right Around the Corner—Unless We Stop It

    Photo: AP When Chennai, India’s main.

  • ‘Surprise’ Ocean Heat Waves Are Becoming More Common

    Photo: Getty There are two flavors.

  • July ‘Equalled, If Not Surpassed’ Record for World’s Hottest Month

    Photo: AP Sometimes the headline says.

  • Greenland Lost 12.5 Billion Tons of Ice in Record-Breaking, Single-Day Meltdown

    Image: Sean Gallup (Getty) After Greenland.

  • Climate Change Has Made Our Stormwater Infrastructure Obsolete

    Photo: AP We are not ready.

  • This Satellite Image Shows Everything Wrong With Greenland Right Now

    Photo: Getty If you could sum.

  • California Is First State Where Utilities Must Tell Customers if Their Water Is Contaminated by Dangerous Chemicals

    Photo: Getty If you don’t know.

  • Thunderstorms, 70 MPH Winds Could Affect Up to 52 Million People in the Northeast Today

    Photo: AP Powerful storms are roaring.

  • This Coalnado Is About as 2019 as It Gets

    GIF: Meredith Garofalo (Twitter) If last.

  • Are We Watching the Arctic Pass a Tipping Point This Summer?

    Wildfires burning in Siberia on July.

  • Why We’re Not Moving Forward With Our Climate Summit

    Illustration: Illustration: G/O Media/Getty A good.

  • Vietnam Seizes 275-Pound Haul of Rhino Horns, Seven Frozen Tiger Carcasses

    Image: Elaine Thompson (AP) In a.

  • Europe’s Heat Wave Threatens Record Melting of Greenland Ice Sheet

    The Greenland ice sheetPhoto: AP A.