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A new marine species in the Red Sea named after Aramco

There are countless species of life on earth and to date, science has identified more than 2 million of them.

A new marine species in the Red Sea named after Aramco

Many more species are waiting to be discovered, and today many are brought to light and with great frequency, thanks to the advanced technology allowing scientists to explore in untouched places. As it turns out, one of those untouched places is right here in Saudi Arabia beneath the waters of the Red Sea, home to inermonephtys aramco, a previously unknown species of marine worm. Aramco research with King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST) helped welcome this new species and Company namesake to the scientific world.

In November of 2013, Aramco opened the Center for Marine Environmental Observations (SAKMEO) at KAUST to gain a scientific understanding of the Red Sea and its ecosystems. This region has largely gone understudied, and knowledge about it would benefit the Kingdom.

Since its inception, SAKMEO, in collaboration with EPD, has been conducting research cruises to assess the current status of the Red Sea to study its changes over time due to natural and anthropogenic processes. As part of these scientific expeditions, researchers collected sediment samples extending down 150 meters in depth to characterize the biodiversity patterns of softbottomed habitats. During analysis of these sediment samples, SAKMEO scientists found four species of marine worms that they had never encountered before. After months of working in the laboratory and with the help of a taxonomist (a specialist in the classification of organisms), it was discovered that three of these species were seen in the Red Sea for the first time ever, and remarkably, the fourth one was a totally new species for science.

As this fourth species was previously undiscovered, scientists gladly accepted the task to give to it a name and officially introduce it to the world. In 2016, inermonephtys aramco was the chosen name to present this species in an article published in August of 2017 in the Journal of the Marine Biological Association of the United Kingdom.

This particular marine worm and Company namesake was collected in sands in the Southern region of the Red Sea at depths of between 60 and 83 meters. In the article, the authors stated that the name of the species refers to Aramco that has been providing support for an extensive baseline characterization of the physico-chemical and biological patterns of the Red Sea where this species has been found.

Ongoing collaboration efforts between Aramco and KAUST have not only discovered this new species. They continue to provide knowledge that will help to implement regulations to better protect and manage biodiversity and ecosystems in Saudi Arabia. SAKMEO projects have tracked marine vulnerabilities, determined impacts linked to industrial urban/coastal development and nonanthropogenic sources, and have identified areas in need of protection based on their ecological resilience and ability to support recovery of disturbed areas in the Red Sea. Today, SAKMEO scientists have conducted seven major research expeditions, 40 reef surveys, and have deployed 72 Autonomous Reef Monitoring Structures on top of analyzing over 500 water and sediment samples.

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