The Gulf’s deepwater corals

The New York Times has an excellent article today discussing state of science and research about deepwater corals in the Gulf of Mexico.

As we’ve blogged, the site of the BP oil disaster has been explored and mapped to some degree by NOAA – some of it funded by the Minerals Management Service.

During last fall’s deepwater expedition in the area, researchers were energized by the forests of deepwater Lophelia they found – it’s a type of coral that can be a vital foundation species to the health of the oceans. But much remains (remained?) to be discovered at depth there.

“We know 1 percent of what’s out there in deep waters — perhaps 1 percent,” said Dr. Billy Causey of NOAA’s National Marine Sanctuaries.

Lophelia pertusa, black coral (right), anemones, and squat lobster, Gulf of Mexico.
Image courtesy of Ian MacDonald, Lophelia II 2009 expedition.

comes with construction supplies pre-installed

A big ‘wow’ – The New York Times has a fascinating report about scientists studying undersea creatures to try to develop better waterproof adhesives.

Some are looking closely at the sandcastle worm (Phragmatopoma californica). Sandcastle worms build their own housing, so to speak. Incredibly, as reporter Henry Fountain notes, to build their homes one grain of sand at a time, they make their own waterproof glue from their heads:

“…using a specialized organ on its head, it produces a microscopic dab or two of glue that it places, just so, on the existing structure. Then it wiggles a new grain into place and lets it set.” All while underwater.

Think about it. Just remarkable.

Photo courtesy Ken-ichi Ueda