Wednesday 8 August 2012

Deepwater White Coral

Image: S. W. Ross (UNCW)
Lophelia Pertusa
Not all corals form their reefs in warm, sun-kissed, sun-smooched and sun-snogged waters. Some don't even want a peck on the cheek from the blasted thing. Dare to be different!

Lophelia is a coral who likes the cold and the dark. They can be found almost everywhere, so long as there is a nice, hard surface to start on and enough of a current to not get smothered in mud.

Most live at depths of between 200 and 1,000 metres (650 - 3,300 ft). Some live as deep as 3,000 m (9,840 ft), while others have been found paddling at a mere 40 m (130 ft)! That's like a puddle for them! It was in Norway though, so they were still keeping themselves nicely chilled.

Image: Lophelia II 2009: Deepwater Coral Expedition: Reefs, Rigs, and Wrecks
Polyps extended to capture plankton
Lophelia is a member of Scleractinia, the stony corals. This means their polyps secrete a tough, calcium carbonate skeleton to live in. As the generations pass, new colonies build atop the remains of the past, creating reefs that are home to whole communities of deep sea life.

Some of these reefs seem to have existed for tens of thousands of years and extend for several miles.

Image: Lophelia II 2010 Expedition, NOAA-OER/BOEMRE
Lots of Lophelia and Sea Anemones.
The Venus Flytrap ones are particularly outstanding.
I can almost hear "FEED ME!" from here!
Individual Lophelia colonies may be hundreds of years old. They can reach some 3 m (3.3 ft) tall yet are estimated to grow at a rate of 4 to 25 mm (0.16 to 1 in) per year.

No-one said it was easy in the cold and dark.

Image: SERPENT Media Archive Project
Not all Lophelia are snowy white. This one is sitting on a bit of oil rig in the North Sea and ends up looking like a very strange tree. I swear I've seen something like this in the Mr. Men books?


TexWisGirl said...

ha ha.

pale can be beautiful. :)

Crunchy said...

Living reefs that are tens of thousands of years old?


FaustXIII said...

beautiful like trees in the winter

Joseph JG said...

@TexWisGirl: It sure can!

@Crunchy: You're gonna need a LOT of stopwatches.

@FaustXIII: It's like a deep sea Christmas all year round!