A team of marine biologists from the University of Southampton, UK, in collaboration with the Interuniversity Institute for Marine Sciences and the Tel Aviv University, Israel, has discovered amazing fluorescent corals deep in the waters of the Red Sea. The corals have the ability of displaying a large diversity of colors, making the corals glow in the water.
The researchers who made the discovery hope that the pigments of these corals will one day be used for developing new medical imaging technology.
In order to find the corals, the researchers had to dive deep in the waters of the Red Sea. At depths of more than 50 meters the biologists discovered the corals which glowed with spectacular neon colors, ranging from red to yellow, green and electric blue. The researchers were taken by surprise by the beautiful colors displayed by the corals, especially since other species that live in shallow waters only glow a fluorescent green.
Jörg Wiedenmann, researcher at the University of Southampton, explained that the fluorescent pigments of the corals are actually proteins. Wiedenmann said that when the corals are exposed to ultraviolet or blue light, they tend to glow in a red or green color. Wiedenmann believes that the optical properties of these corals could be used for developing new biomedical imaging technology. He explained that the corals’ fluorescent glow might also help scientists identify cancer cells.
Gal Eyal, scientist at the IUI, explained that because the corals live at such depths, in the mesophotic reefs, very little is known about them because scuba divers cannot go that deep into the water.
According to the marine biologists, they did not expect to see any red glowing because sunlight can only penetrate the water with its blue sunlight at such depths. However, the researchers were taken by surprise by the orange and green glowing of the fluorescent corals.
Usually, such colors are seen in corals that live in shallow waters and act as sunscreen protection for the corals and the algae that live on them.
The biologists wrote about the fluorescent corals in the journal PLOS ONE.
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