Scientists developed a new technological asset that would help them analyze the tiny corals behavior. The device is known as the Benthic Underwater Microscope (BUM).
This microscope has a computer interface that can be operated underwater, meaning that experts will now be able to monitor the activity of microscopic organisms in their natural environment, which is a significant breakthrough.
This microscope was compared to other previous models, and it proved to be probably five times better than them because it can monitor incredibly tiny microorganisms at just 10 micrometers. BUM was developed by a team of scientists from the Scripps Institution of Oceanography’s Jaffe Laboratory for Underwater Imaging in San Diego at the University of California.
Thanks to this technology, experts were able to observe the small corals, dancing, fighting, and even kissing on the bottom of the sea. During a research in the Red Sea, scientists saw how coral polyps deal with algae colonization, compete with other corals, and feed.
Based on these findings, the team established that there is a difference between coral reefs and coral polyps because compared to the reefs they are microscopic animals with tentacles, tiny mouths, and soft bodies.
According to Andrew Mullen, study co-lead author, they cannot understand yet what represents the coral-kissing behavior of these polyps. Until now, researchers speculated that kissing might be in fact an exchange of nutrients.
Another significant finding is that corals fight each other as well. The BUM revealed that coral polyps could make the difference between enemy and friends. For instance, when a distinct coral species was placed near the polyps, they immediately used their guts to send out filaments that had the purpose of attacking the neighboring species.
Mullen stated that these polyps must have some kind of a chemical detector with which they can sense if the nearby corals are of the same species or not. The team has reached an important conclusion regarding the bleaching event observed in Maui reefs, explaining that the coral bleaching occurred because the reef was unable to fight off the algae colonization.
The BUM images revealed that the deadly algae have an invasive behavior, attacking coral polyps. According to Tali Treibitz, co-lead author of the study, this innovative microscope will represent a valuable asset in the future investigation of ocean ecosystems, especially the corals which have been severely affected over the last few years.
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