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NURP and OE supported work documents unstudied deep-sea corals

This story entered on 21st May, 2008 07:18:57 AM PST

Scientists with support from NOAA Undersea Research Program’s Undersea Research Center at the University of North Carolina Wilmington and Ocean Exploration in collaboration with the National Marine Fisheries Service, U.S. Geological Survey, North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences, the State of North Carolina, South Atlantic Fishery Management Council, the Environmental Defense Fund, and the Minerals Management Service conducted a series of NOAA lead expeditions to document deep sea coral habitats on the continental slope off the east coast from North Carolina to central Florida, in an area known as the Blake Plateau.

Research scientist discovered a number of animals thought to be rare, but found common around the corals, documented many animals outside of their previously known ranges, and discovered a number of new species. Prior to these expeditions to explore and document deep coral habitats off the coast of the southeastern U.S., little was known about the location or extent of these reefs, how they form, and what marine species are dependent upon them.

The habitat explored was composed primarily of the deep sea coral species Lophelia pertusa, the most common reef-building cold-water coral and found throughout the world. It has been found as far north as Nova Scotia in the western North Atlantic Ocean colonizing seamounts and other hard surfaces, but does not form the extensive banks that are found off the North Carolina coast, where Lophelia reefs may be tens to hundreds of thousands of years old.

Unlike the colorful corals found in shallow tropical waters, Lophelia lacks zooxanthellae, the symbiotic algae which live inside most tropical reef-building corals. Generally white in color, Lophelia is fragile and slow growing. It lives in water depths between 80 and 3,000 meters (roughly 260 to 9,850 feet), but is most commonly found between 200 and 1,000 meters (about 650 to 3,300 feet) depth, where there is no sunlight, and water temperatures range from about 4 to 12 °C (between 39 and 54°F).
News organization: Science Daily
Air time: Tue, May 20 2008 at 1:00 AM Eastern

Contact information:
Name: John D Tomczuk
Tel: (301) 734-1009


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Updated: June 4, 2008