Navigation Links
Coral reefs found growing in cold, deep ocean

Imagine descending in a submarine to the ice-cold, ink-black depths of the ocean, 800 metres under the surface of the Atlantic. Here the tops of the hills are covered in large coral reefs. NIOZ-researcher Furu Mienis studied the formation of these unknown cold-water relatives of the better-known tropical corals.

Furu Mienis studied the development of carbonate mounds dominated by cold-water corals in the Atlantic Ocean at depths of six hundred to a thousand metres. These reefs can be found along the eastern continental slope from Morocco to Norway, on the Mid-Atlantic Ridge and on the western continental slope along the east coast of Canada and the United States. Mienis studied the area to the west of Ireland along the edges of the Rockall Trough.

In her research Mienis analysed environmental factors like temperature, current speed and flow direction of seawater as these determine the growth of cold-water corals and the carbonate mounds. The measurements were made using bottom landers, observatories placed on the seabed from the NIOZ oceanographic research vessel 'Pelagia' and brought back to the surface a year later.

Food highways down to the deep

Cold-water corals are mainly found on the tops of carbonate mounds in areas where the current is high due to strong internal waves. These waves are caused by tidal currents and lead to an increase in local turbulence that results in the seawater being strongly mixed in a vertical direction. The outcome is the creation of a kind of highway between the nutrient-rich, sunlit zone at the sea surface and the deep, dark strata where the 380 metre-high tops of the mounds are found. This allows the cold-water corals to feed on algae and zooplankton that live in the upper layers of the sea. Lophelia pertusa and Madrepora oculata are the most important coral species found on the European continental slopes.

Carbonate mounds

How the carbonate mounds were formed was investigated by using a piston core from the research vessel to take samples of up 4.5 metres of sediment. These cores were then cut into thin slices that were analysed separately; the deeper the layer, the older the sediment. The samples studied were aged up to 200,000 years old. Large hiatuses found in the core were possibly caused by major changes in tidal currents. The groups of carbonate mounds develop in the direction of the strongest current and their tops are of equal height. The mounds were found to be built up from carbonate debris and sediment particles caught in between coral branches. These cold-water coral reefs have, therefore, not developed as a result of leakage of natural gas from the sea bed. However, that may well be the case in the Gulf of Mexico. This area is currently being studied from the American research vessel 'Nancy Foster' by Furu Mienis, her supervisor Tjeerd van Weering and NIOZ associate researcher Gerard Duineveld.


Climate change has exerted a considerable influence on the growth of corals and the development of carbonate mounds. For example, corals stopped growing during ice ages. Present-day global warming and the resulting acidification of the oceans also pose a threat: organisms are less effective at taking up carbonate from seawater that is too acidic. This is true not only for corals but also for some species of algae that are a source of food for the corals. Other activities on the seabed that can cause damage to the coral reefs are offshore industries and bottom trawlers. A number of European areas containing cold-water coral reefs have thankfully already obtained protected status.


Contact: Dr. Furu Mienis
Netherlands Organization for Scientific Research

Related biology news :

1. Cold water corals conference to be held in Woods Hole
2. Rare corals breed their way out of trouble
3. Diversity of plant-eating fishes may be key to recovery of coral reefs
4. Modest CO2 cutbacks may be too little, too late for coral reefs
5. How corals adapt to day and night
6. Research expedition on corals and global warming: Aug. 17-26 in Puerto Rico
7. Shipwrecks on coral reefs harbor unwanted species
8. Fishing ban guards coral reefs against predatory starfish outbreaks
9. New indicator uncovered that can predict coral health
10. Lionfish decimating tropical fish populations, threaten coral reefs
11. 1/3 of reef-building corals face extinction
Post Your Comments:
(Date:10/26/2015)... October 26, 2015 ... adds Biometrics Market Shares, ... as well as Emerging Biometrics Technologies: ... to its collection of IT and ... . --> ...
(Date:10/26/2015)... Calif. , Oct. 26, 2015  Delta ID ... biometric authentication to mobile and PC devices, announced its ... smartphone, the arrows NX F-02H launched by NTT DOCOMO, ... NX F-02H is the second smartphone to include iris ... technology in ARROWS NX F-04G in May 2015, world,s ...
(Date:10/23/2015)... BERLIN and GOLETA, California ... the HFES conference, BIOPAC and SensoMotoric Instruments (SMI) announce ... and eye tracking data captured during interactive real-world tasks ... plug and play integration of their established wearable solutions ... researchers to synchronize gaze behavior captured with SMI ...
Breaking Biology News(10 mins):
(Date:11/24/2015)... Nov. 24, 2015 Halozyme Therapeutics, Inc. (NASDAQ: HALO ... New York on Wednesday, December 2 at ... , president and CEO, will provide a corporate overview. ... at 1:00 p.m. ET/10:00 a.m. PT . ... will provide a corporate overview. --> th Annual ...
(Date:11/24/2015)... Nov. 24, 2015 /PRNewswire/ - Aeterna Zentaris Inc. (NASDAQ: ... on behalf of the Toronto Stock Exchange, confirms that ... are no corporate developments that would cause the recent ... --> --> About Aeterna Zentaris Inc. ... --> Aeterna Zentaris is a specialty biopharmaceutical ...
(Date:11/24/2015)... ... November 24, 2015 , ... The Academy of Model ... Group (SIG), MultiGP, also known as Multirotor Grand Prix, to represent the First–Person View ... years. Many AMA members have embraced this type of racing and several new model ...
(Date:11/24/2015)... QUEBEC CITY , Nov. 24, 2015 /PRNewswire/ ... (the "Company") announced today that the remaining 11,000 ... Common Share Purchase Warrants (the "Series B Warrants") ... agreement were exercised on November 23, 2015, which ... Common Shares.  After giving effect to the issuance ...
Breaking Biology Technology: