This is Coral Week. Not to be confused with International Year of the Reef 2008. The goal of this week is to pull you away from the reef, actually, down into the deeper, darker parts of the ocean where corals still thrive. We want to introduce you to the other corals, the maligned and neglected ones, like the octocorals (aka soft corals, or sea fans), the cup corals, the matrix formers, the black corals, and the zoantharians like the gold corals, which can grow to be 2000 years old. Deep corals hold secrets just like the shallow ones. They have alot in common, actually. We’ll write about that.
You see, technically a reef is a submerged formation big and shallow enough for a ship to hit. Deeper than that, large aggregations of coral (sometimes kilometers across) are called “bioherms” in the case of the scleractinia, and “meadows” or “groves” in the case of gorgonian sea fans. You may already be familiar with these deep-sea corals. Perhaps your grandmother had a red coral necklace, or a black coral bracelet. Perhaps you’re a regular fan of Deep Sea News, and you already know that corals grow in Alaska, Canada, and Maine. If you live near the coast, chances are there’s a coral growing below 200m.
Most of these are axoozanthellate corals, lacking symbiotic algae, but some retain zooxanthellae in very low numbers, harboring algae that’s lost its way, or taking advantage of a photosynthetic pathway we’ve not discovered yet. You can expect lots of facts and speculation, plus peer-reviewed material, and a special series I will premier online here at DSN, then try to move to a journal in the future, as if this was New Yorker magazine or something. The intention being that original science can premiere in the blogosphere.
The general idea of the online event is collaborative. The point is to show that when it comes to the Invertebrate Wars corals are way cooler than either mollusks or echinoderms, because they have their own week! Bwahahahaha. A sleeping contender awakes! I don’t see no Barnacle Week week here anywhere, my friends. ; )
We’ve done theme weeks before for Megavertebrates and for Microbes, and it was a lot of fun. If you have a related post, you can email me at peter dot etnoyer at tamucc dot edu or place a link in the comments section. I’ll try to post two stories a day at least, with links to others. Some stories are authored by friends and colleagues. You’ll find that information in the by-line at the top of the post. Many stories are by professional deep-coral researchers and advocates. Please enjoy, and participate and comment often. As always, thanks for reading.