JUL 09, 2017 8:28 AM PDT

Scientists Finally Know Why Deep-Water Corals Glow in the Dark

WRITTEN BY: Anthony Bouchard

There are all kinds of corals in our seas; those that exist at shallower depths are known to sometimes glow because of special proteins inside of their tissues that help act as a sunblock to prevent the Sun’s harmful ultraviolet rays from otherwise destroying the coral.

On the other hand, corals deeper below the surface of the ocean where the Sun doesn’t shine have less of a need for sunscreen, so the question as to why even corals residing at deeper portions of the ocean glow has gone unanswered for some time; until now, that is.

Deeper-sea corals seem to glow orange and red colors. And now we know why.

Image Credit: Prof Joerg Wiedenmann

A new study published in the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B by researchers from the University of Southampton suggests that deeper-sea corals exhibit their eerie glowing because they absorb the small amounts of penetrating blue light and glow orange/red colored light as a result.

These glowing lights are strong enough to trigger photosynthesis in algae known as zooxanthellae, which take cover inside of crevices throughout the corals.

Related: This fish has special lips that protect it from coral stings

Now don’t get the idea that the corals are working to provide shelter and a key ingredient for photosynthesis to algae for free, because they’re not. They are helping these fellow organisms with their photosynthesis because these algae will create a byproduct that corals use as food for energy.

In other words, a mutual relationship is going on here; corals glow because they need to trigger photosynthesis in nearby algae for food to survive. If they didn’t, they wouldn’t get enough food because the algae wouldn’t be sticking around in darker places where photosynthesis otherwise wouldn’t be possible.

It’s a black and white example of how corals have adapted to survive in an extreme environment and is a testament to evolution.

The researchers go on to explain that perhaps there is something we can learn from this process. Since coral reefs in shallower waters are on a major decline around the world, it might be possible to advantageously use these natural mutual relationships to help sustain coral reef populations before they all die out.

Related: Growing coral: a restoration project

Unfortunately, however, simply relocating the shallow-water corals into the deeper waters isn’t plausible, as shallow-water corals lack the proteins necessary to survive in deep-water conditions, and it’s unlikely that they’ll adapt quickly enough to survive even if attempts were made.

The researchers highlight the importance of protecting our shallow-water coral reefs while we still can.

Source: New York Times, Phys.org

About the Author
Fascinated by scientific discoveries and media, Anthony found his way here at LabRoots, where he would be able to dabble in the two. Anthony is a technology junkie that has vast experience in computer systems and automobile mechanics, as opposite as those sound.
You May Also Like
MAR 16, 2022
Plants & Animals
How Do Some Trees Survive Damaging Winds?
MAR 16, 2022
How Do Some Trees Survive Damaging Winds?
Forests are vital ecosystems, and each individual tree plays an important role. Just take forests like the Amazon rainfo ...
APR 22, 2022
Plants & Animals
Microbes Could Change How Methane Gas in Landfills is Produced
APR 22, 2022
Microbes Could Change How Methane Gas in Landfills is Produced
Every Earth Day, we take time to pause, think, and reflect on what we’re doing to save and preserve the natural wo ...
MAY 02, 2022
Cell & Molecular Biology
A New Type of Cell Division is Discovered
MAY 02, 2022
A New Type of Cell Division is Discovered
Scientists studying zebrafish larvae noticed something weird. Skin cells seemed to be dividing without replicating their ...
MAY 11, 2022
Plants & Animals
The Natural World May Help Mental Health, But Studies Lack Diversity
MAY 11, 2022
The Natural World May Help Mental Health, But Studies Lack Diversity
It seems like a no-brainer that the natural world would have a positive effect on our well being, particularly our menta ...
MAY 20, 2022
Plants & Animals
Friendly Gut Bacteria Can Help Eliminate Pathogens
MAY 20, 2022
Friendly Gut Bacteria Can Help Eliminate Pathogens
Probiotics play an important role in our gut health. They essentially impact the make-up of bacteria in our gut, which c ...
JUN 12, 2022
Earth & The Environment
A 50% reduction in emissions can be achieved. Here's how
JUN 12, 2022
A 50% reduction in emissions can be achieved. Here's how
In 2021, the United States set an ambitious goal of reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by at least 50% by 2030. Thi ...
Loading Comments...