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Diversity, genetics and biological activities of soft corals Sinularia spp. and Sarcophyton spp. (Octocorallia) in the Gulf of Oman


Octocorals are one of the major components of the benthic, shallow water communities of many, if not most tropical and subtropical marine ecosystems. There are probably around 150-200 species of this order of Cnidarian in the waters of Oman and yet, no inventories, even partial have been published. These octocorals have a huge potential as a source of bioactive compounds, from antifouling to cytotoxic, particularly in the stressed environments.




Project typeCollaborative project between Oman Animal & Plant Genetic Resources Center (OAPGRC) and Sultan Qaboos University (SQU)

Aims & Objectives
    • o Evaluate the biological activities of the secondary metabolites of species from the two genera of soft corals (Sinularia spp. and Sarcophyton spp.) inhabiting Oman's shallow water environments
    • o​ Establish a genetic and morphological baseline for their identification​

    • Objectives

      • o Collect octocorals in the genera Sarcophyton and Sinularia present in Muscat's shallow water environments (0-30 m)
      • o Create a reference type collection of octocorals in the genera Sarcophyton and Sinularia present in the Sea of Oman's shallow water environments (0-30 m)
      • o Describe morphologically and genetically octocorals in the genera Sarcophyton and Sinularia present in the Sea of Oman's shallow water environments (0-30 m)
      • o Evaluate through a series of bioassays the antimicrobial and antifouling potential of these species secondary metabolites
      • o​ Identify species of Sarcophyton and Sinularia with the highest biotechnological potential
Methodology/ Phases
  • o Specimens will be collected from the coral communities in the Muscat area
  • o​ During all field work, samples of soft corals will be photographed in situ and collected by divers and separated into several groups
  • o One portion will be fixed after anesthesia for morphological identification
  • o Other subsamples will be analyzed for sclerite structure using Scanning Electron Microscope
  • o Tissue samples from each soft coral will be used for DNA extraction and species identification by genome wide single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) using Diversity Arrays Technology Sequencing (DArt-seq)
  • o The rest of the specimens will be extracted using polar and non-polar solvents to obtain secondary metabolites
  • o Extracts will be evaporated and antimicrobial and antifouling activity will be screened

Achievements / Impacts / Outcomes 
  • o 30 specimens sampled
  • DNA extracted from 30 specimens
  • Bioactive compounds extracted from 30 specimens
  • o​ Establishment of database with OAPGRC and Natural History Museum


June 2018 - January 2019Sampling of specimens
September 2018 - December 2019Morphological and genetic analysis of soft corals
January 2019Phase 1 Report
January - December 2019 Testing of bioactivity of soft coral extracts
January 2020 Final Report


Follow up 
  • o Complete DNA & bioactive compounds of the samples
  • o​ Sequence the DNA

Project team

Sultan Qaboos University

o​ Dr Michel Claereboudt, Department of Marine Science & Fisheries, 

o​ Dr Sergey Dobretsov, Center of Excellence in Marine Biotechnology, Sultan Qaboos University

o​ Dr Madjid Delghandi Center of Excellence in Marine Biotechnology, Sultan Qaboos University


Abdullah Al Balushi

o Haitham Al Busaidi ​