Zoological Studies

Vol. 43 No. 3, 2004

Soft Corals (Octocorallia: Alcyonacea) from Southern Taiwan. II. Species Diversity and Distributional Patterns

Yehuda Benayahu1,*, Ming-Shiou Jeng2, Shimrit Perkol-Finkel1 and Chang-Feng Dai3

1Department of Zoology, George S. Wise Faculty of Life Sciences, Tel Aviv University, Ramat Aviv, Tel Aviv 69978, Israel
2Institute of Zoology, Academia Sinica, Taipei, Taiwan 115
3Institute of Oceanography, National Taiwan University, Taipei, P.O. Box 23-13, Taiwan 106

Yehuda Benayahu, Ming-Shiou Jeng, Shimrit Perkol-Finkel and Chang-Feng Dai (2004) The geographic setting of Taiwan, between the West Pacific Ocean and East China Sea and at the crossroads of the Philippine-Japan I. Arc, has produced reefs of special biogeographical interest. It has been suggested that Taiwan may have served as a “stepping-stone” for the dispersal of shallow reef organisms. Soft corals from Nanwan Bay and Green I. (Lutao in Chinese), southern Taiwan, were studied during 1994 and 1998. Scuba collections were carried out to a depth of 33 m. Approximately 230 samples were collected, encompassing a variety of species found on these reefs. Visual estimates were made of the underwater abundance of species. The collection yielded 69 species of the families Helioporidae, Clavulariidae, Tubiporidae, Alcyoniidae, Nephtheidae, Xeniidae, and Briareidae. These included 1 new species and 43 new zoogeographical records for Taiwan. Among the 22 listed genera, the survey recorded 7 for the 1st time in Taiwanese reefs. The findings confirm the high soft-coral diversity of these reefs. The shallow reefs of Nanwan Bay are densely inhabited by species of the family Alcyoniidae. In contrast, the deep reefs are characterized only by sporadic colonies of Alcyoniidae, but abundant assemblages of azooxanthellate members of the families Nephtheidae and Nidaliidae. Soft corals of the family Xeniidae are abundant on the reefs of Green I. at a depth range of 3~10 m. Interestingly, species of the family Xeniidae were rarely observed at Nanwan Bay. The coral reefs of Taiwan and Japan are closely linked by the northward-flowing Kuroshio Current, which brings water and larvae from the reefs of the South China Sea. Therefore, we compared the generic affiliation and abundance estimates of the Alcyoniidae between southern Taiwan and the Ryukyu Archipelago (Japan), and found a close resemblance between these 2 reef areas.

Key words: Octocorallia, Taiwan, Coral reefs, Species diversity, Biogeography

*Correspondence: Tel: 972-3-6409090. Fax: 972-3-6409403. E-mail: yehudab@tauex.tau.ac.il