A study conducted by the University of Southampton has found how glowing deep sea corals survive so far beneath the surface of the ocean. It’s to do with a particular type of fluorescent protein emitted from the coral.
It is the same protein that coral uses as sunblock in shallow waters. This same protein is used differently by deeper- sea reefs.
According to Dr Pim Bongaerts from the University of Queensland, this information is ground-breaking and provided valuable insight into a previously unknown phenomenon.
We still don't really understand how these corals can actually survive at these depths; they're very difficult to access, particularly in Australia where we have some really strict diving legislation for the scientific community. Very little research has been done below 50 metres, 20 metres even.
This is a unique discovery, one that could impact not just the scientific world, but the medical world as well. Researchers from the University of Southampton hope to use the proteins to light up living cells to assist with visibility in cancer and HIV patients.
This information could potentially assist protection efforts. Bongaerts explains that though most of the deep-sea reef is unmapped, it’s estimated that the amount of deep sea reef habitats are equivalent to the amount of shallow deeps.
To protect ecosystems, you have to know how they function and this is a really important knowledge gap in our understanding in how these deep reefs function. These are really important first steps to really get a better understanding of how these ecosystems work and protect them appropriately.
After the most recent episode of bleaching across the Great Barrier Reef, scientists have taken to deep-sea reefs for study.
A lot of research is focused on understanding how they're more protected, whether they're more protected, also to what extent these deep reefs can actually play in shallow-reef communities by acting as a source of larvae.