Scientists Experience Special Deep Sea Light Show
Ah summer, the time of year for surf, sun, and sand. But the boardwalk is not the only place to find bright, colorful lights. There’s a light show we’ve been missing out on that’s been going on for years about 150 feet below the ocean’s surface. Deep water coral has been having a secret rave, giving off incredibly beautiful red, yellows and greens when exposed to ultraviolet or blue light.
This discovery came as a surprise to a team of marine biologists who had observed shallow water coral in the same region that did not produce this colorful fluorescence. In fact, the shallow water coral only showed the same green monochromatic fluorescent pigments.
So what’s the difference? The short answer is that marine scientists are unsure. What we do know is that the fluorescent particles that create those colors are proteins. In shallow water, these cells work as a natural sunscreen to keep the coral from being roasted by the sun (so it’s assumed that the monochromatic color is protective in nature).
The mystery here is that it takes a lot of energy for deep water coral to produce their bright fluorescent colors when it is already very difficult for sunlight to reach the coral. It’s left biologists wondering why it would expend so much energy on something that seems to have no specific purpose. One theory is that the fluorescence may assist in capturing what little light does reach there occasionally.
Even though the “why” of this natural phenomenon will need more research to more fully understand, deep coral fluorescence already has the potential to improve imaging tools for medical applications. Researchers believe that the optical properties associated with these cells may make it easier to highlight living cells or cellular structures under a microscope.
This initial discovery is poised to open a new avenue for deep sea research, a little-studied area of Marine Biology. Hopefully, as we learn more, our knowledge and the benefits of that knowledge can be more fully realized.
Photo : Jörg Wiedenmann and TechTimes
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