The reason why Deep Sea Corals Glow in the Dark

Scientists found the reason why deep-sea corals glow in the dark.

Corals in shallow waters glow because of fluorescent proteins that act as sunblock, protecting the endangered species from the sun’s intense rays.

Now scientists from the University of Southampton have found that corals in deep water are fluorescent for the exact opposite reason – to absorb the little light there is for the benefit of photosynthetic microorganisms that provides most of the coral’s energy needs.

The group is displaying their research at this year’s Royal Society Summer Science Exhibition and publishing their work in this week’s issue of Proceedings of the Royal Society B.

Prof. Jörg Wiedenmann, head of the Coral Reef Laboratory at the University of Southampton said: “This is an important step forward in understanding how the mysterious fluorescent pigments in corals work. Our finding help us to understand how the amazing diversity of coral colours structures the communities on coral reef.”

“Deep water habitats are discussed as potential refuges for corals from the increasingly degraded shallow water reefs. Our work shows that the ‘deep blue sea’ may not be the welcoming sanctuary our endangered coral reefs can retreat to without consequence. It becomes clear that corals need special features to adjust to life in these low-light depths for the benefit of their vital photosynthetic partners and not all shallow water corals might be able to use this escape route. It is of utmost importance we do our best to keep their homes in shallow water habitable.”

source University of Southampton