The ocean harbors untold taxonomic riches, with hundreds if not thousands of species awaiting scientific discovery and description. Coral reefs, famously biodiverse but imperiled by climate change, may just be the epicenters of this slumbering species richness. In addition to attracting an amazing variety of animals, plants, and protists, the complex ecosystems are magnets for marine biologists and underwater photographers. Richard Smith fits both bills, and his camera has helped identify several new coral reef-dwelling species over the past two decades. These striking photographs come from his recently published book, The World Beneath: The Life and Times of Unknown Sea Creatures and Coral Reefs.

Nembrotha kubaryana is just one of the many thousands of species of nudibranch on coral reefs. Many remain undescribed.

Male Denise’s pygmy seahorses, like all seahorses, become pregnant and brood the young in a specially adapted pouch.
A pair of Bargibant’s pygmy seahorses, a species...

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