Deepwater and shallow water coral reef communities are rich in diversity and provide habitat for many species. Shallow water coral reef systems have been well-studied partly due to their accessibility. Deepwater corals and associated habitats can only be studied with technologically advanced methods such as manned submersibles, remote operated vehicles (ROV) and autonomous underwater vehicles (AUV). Only a small percentage of deepwater reefs have been described.
Photo credit: S. Ross et al., UNCW
Unlike reef-building tropical corals, deepwater corals are found beyond the reach of sunlight and are adapted to the dark environment. As opposed to shallow water corals, deepwater coral polyps do not contain the symbiotic algae that provide their tropical cousins with energy via photosynthesis. Instead, deepwater corals rely on catching passing food in the water column. As a result, deepwater corals grow very slowly, from less than one centimeter to up to two centimeters per year. Deepwater coral colonies tend to be found in areas where there are strong water currents, which supply food and remove sediments that would otherwise smother the coral polyps. They are also typically found along rocky ledges or in narrow regions. Deepwater coral systems are receiving increased attention worldwide. Click on the thumbnails below to learn more about Oculina and other deepwater coral communities in the region.
Learn more at NOAA's Coral Reef Information System and Coral Reef Conservation Program.
Visit the global coral information system ReefBase to explore coral resources, threats, and photos from around the world.
Life on the Edge 2004: Exploring Deep Ocean Habitats - click on the following links to learn more about this cruise:
USGS Florida Integrated Science Center
North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences
Research on Deepwater Ecosystems
Megafaunal-habitat associations at a deep-sea coral mound off North Carolina, USA, Quattrini et al.
This site raises awareness of the UK's deep-sea habitats:
Deep-sea Corals in Atlantic Canada
Photos of Norwegian reefs
Deep-sea Coral Reseach and Conservation in Offshore Nova Scotia
Coral Reefs in Norway