Colorful corals that live more than 50 meters deep have been discovered in the Red Sea by researchers with the University of Southampton, UK, Tel Aviv University and the Interuniversity Institute for Marine Sciences. The researchers found that the corals glow very bright with an array of fluorescent colors represented. The coloration of these corals were a surprise given that similar corals living in shallow waters contained only fluorescent green coloration.
“These fluorescent pigments are proteins. When they are illuminated with blue or ultraviolet light, they give back light of longer wavelengths, such as reds or greens,” said Jörg Wiedenmann, Professor of Biological Oceanography and Head of the University of Southampton’s Coral Reef Laboratory.
These corals are located around 50 meters in the Red Sea. Photo by University of Southampton’s Coral Reef Laboratory
“Their optical properties potentially make them important tools for biomedical imaging applications, as their fluorescent glow can be used to highlight living cells or cellular structures of interest under the microscope. They could also be applied to track cancer cells or as tools to screen for new drugs.”
The blue parts of sunlight are the only parts of light that can penetrate further than 50 meters, yet red colorations were found at these depths, which means that the corals have fluorescent pigments, which are commonly found in shallow water corals.
The corals come from mesophotic reefs (reefs that are 30 to 100 meters in depth) that are usually less studied due in part to the fact that they are generally too deep for standard scuba diving. Technical diving advances have enabled more of these types of coral ecosystems to be better explored.