The coral at a popular Caribbean reef, called Cunego, has been identified as a new species and could be the oldest surviving reef fish on the planet.
The Cunega coral is the oldest known coral species on the island of Dominica, and the researchers say they are also the first to find a coral in the Caribbean Sea.
Cunegos were previously believed to be extinct on Dominica until now, said David Dey, an associate professor of ocean sciences at Duke University in Durham, North Carolina.
“They were a very important part of the natural reef ecosystem on the Caribbean island of St. Martin,” he said.
“They live in the reef, but they’re in the water as plankton.”
Dey’s group studied Cunerego in 2011 and 2012, after it was discovered by a student at the University of the Virgin Islands in St. Kitts and Nevis.
They discovered the coral on a small reef in a lagoon at Cunigo, located off the northern island of the island.
Dey said Cunepo is a “very unique” species and a unique one at that.
“It’s not a common corals found anywhere in the world,” he explained.
“Its really quite remarkable because it is such an unusual coral.”
The researchers said they found Cuneos life history is very similar to other coral species in the ocean, including coral that live in other parts of the world.
It also has a very long lifespan, lasting between 1.5 million to 5 million years, Dey said.
It was not immediately clear if the coral was able to survive this long.
But, Deys team said it does look like it may be the first known coral to survive in the sea.
Experts say there are at least a dozen known species of corals living on the Atlantic coast of North America, but most of those are only found in waters off the coast of the Caribbean.
The Cuneo coral was identified from DNA that was taken from a fossil found in a lake in St Martin, and was studied by scientists from the University at Buffalo and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
There were no direct links between the fossils and Cunemios life cycle, but Dey says the researchers do know it is a coral species.
Scientists believe it may have lived on St. Maarten, a Caribbean island that is now a popular destination for tourists and locals alike.