Two species of white coral have been found off the coast of Puglia in the south of Italy. The coral, called Mardepora Oculata and Lophelia Pertusa, was thought to have been extinct in the Mediterranean since the sea warmed up at the end of the ice age more than 15,000 years. But fishermen in the Ionian Sea have recently reported finding this unusual coral in their nets.

The Italian national research council (CNR) and the institute for geophysics and vulcanology (Ingv) have found the coral in an area 50 metres in diameter, 650 metres down on the edge of the Apulian Plateau, 30 km off S. Maria di Leuca, at the bottom of the heel of Italy.

Italy is famous for red coral, which grows slowly at a depth of 100 metres in warm waters off the coast at Portofino, along the Amalfi coast, and off the coast of Sardinia, but the white coral was thought to grow only in cold waters. The scientists believe that methane in natural gas coming out of the seabed off the coast of Puglia may feed a bacteria that is part of the food chain which includes the white coral. The World Wildlife Fund has proposed that this should be called a protected area.