Magazine article Newsweek

These Deep-Sea Corals Glow to Survive in the Dark; New Research Shows Corals Can Re-Emit Sunlight as a Red-Orange Glow

Magazine article Newsweek

These Deep-Sea Corals Glow to Survive in the Dark; New Research Shows Corals Can Re-Emit Sunlight as a Red-Orange Glow

Article excerpt

Byline: Douglas Main

Most types of coral depend on the sun to survive, and employ symbiotic algae to churn light into food. This gets more difficult in deep water, and corals that live in these areas have an elegant way of making due with the dimness: They make their own light.

New research shows that many types of coral in deep water can absorb blue light, the wavelength of sunshine that reaches most deeply into the ocean, and re-emit it as a red-orange glow. This is known as fluorescence (which is not the same as bioluminescence, another way that organisms produce light). A paper published in the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B shows that this red-orange light can penetrate more deeply within the coral than blue light, and helps algae therein to photosynthesize and produce chemical energy. The coral apparently employs this trick to get even more energy out of the little light that reaches the deep sea.

Jorg Wiedenmann, a professor at the University of Southampton, in the U.K., and the study's lead author, first discovered that coral could glow while researching anemones, and was "blown away by a rainbow of colors" while placing corals under ultraviolet light. Subsequent research showed that the chemicals responsible for the light, known as photoconvertible red fluorescent proteins, are present in the surface layer of the coral itself. It was previously thought that the algae themselves were responsible for fluorescence, Wiedenmann says.

The scientists found that 30 percent of corals at a depth of 150 feet at the study site in the Mediterranean had these red fluorescent proteins. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.