New adaptation of Cold-Water Corals: Fusion of CWCs

Cold-water corals: fusion of corals by species recognition for coral regrowth. (Image by Solvin Zankl)

Figure 3: Fusion of cold-water coral (Lophelia pertusa) by species recognition for coral regrowth (Image by Solvin Zankl).

Marine Biologist, Professor Murray Roberts (co-ordinator of Heriot-Watt’s new Lyell Centre for Earth and Marine Science and Technology) has recently discovered a new adaptation pattern of cold-water corals (Lophelia pertusa) around Scotland and northern Europe. These deep sea animals have gained an adaptation of fusing in order to cope with the harsh environmental changes in climate. In tropical corals, coralline algae and dead coral skeletal matter bind together forming new reef structures that may have been lost due to common threats of corals. As CWCs are found in areas where light is unable to reach, they do not undergo this process as there is lack of algae. Instead, CWCs have been found to fuse together to form stronger, more stable frameworks (figure 3). This also enables them to become larger in size. It has been known that coral siblings bond together in the past but the bonding of corals due to species recognition is a new finding for coral reef support and for increase in their survival (Hennige et al, 2014).


WATCH: A quick look at the world’s most abundant cold-water coral ‘Lophelia pertusa’

In benthic waters where temperatures reach between 4-13⁰C, cold-water coral Lophelia pertusa are found (Galkiewicz, 2011). Here is a quick documentary by Sir David Attenborough to give a brief outlook on the importance of cold water corals, Lophelia pertusa and the major anthropohenic threats they have been facing.