IN PHOTOS: 12 'rare and new' species in Verde Island Passage

This beautiful species with dark ridges and spots is found in the mesophotic zone at a depth of around 100 meters.

The bright colors of this new species of sea slug advertise that it is probably distasteful to fish.

This beautiful new nudibranch can be distinguished by its bright yellow spots on a white background.

The brown spotted pattern and color of rings on the finger-like projections on the body distinguish this species of sea slug.

This tiny gem only reaches 3 to 5 millimeters in length when it is fully mature.

 This tiny whitish slug is found on rubble bottoms at a depth of 20 meters in Puerto Galera.

This delicate new heart urchin is essentially a living fossil of a group that is extinct elsewhere.

Protection needed

As home to these aquatic gems, the Philippines should step up conservation efforts in the Verde Island Passage, said Gosliner. (READ: Isla Verde: Garbage, pollution threaten world jewel)

"A network of marine protected areas would help a great deal. Making certain that pollutants and plastics are not dumped into the ocean will also make them safe for coming generations," he said.

Filipino marine biologist Wilfredo Licuanan, who was also part of the expedition, said, "I think there could be better coordination between DENR (Department of Environment and Natural Resources) and other institutions, local governments."

Despite its significance to global biodiversity, the VIP is not yet a protected area by law. It is a protected area only by virtue of an 2006 Executive Order issued by former President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo. – Rappler.com

Pia Ranada

Pia Ranada covers the Office of the President and Bangsamoro regional issues for Rappler. While helping out with desk duties, she also watches the environment sector and the local government of Quezon City. For tips or story suggestions, you can reach her at pia.ranada@rappler.com.

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