Coral kiss has been seen for the first time in the marine environment. The primitive creatures are also seen in a new video as they carry on the fight for survival. This marks the first time such activity has been recorded in the wild by researchers.
Scripps Institution of Oceanography researchers have developed a novel imaging system, allowing them to watch microscopic views of the life of coral. The device is operated by divers, accompanying the underwater observatory.
The unique instrument Benthic Underwater Microscope (BUM) was utilized by researchers to view coral polyps "kissing" one another, as well as observe battles over territory.
"This underwater microscope is the first instrument to image the seafloor at such small scales. The system is capable of seeing features as small as single cells underwater," said Andrew Mullen from Scripps and the Jacobs School of Engineering.
This new instrument is equipped with lenses resulting in extreme magnifications, capable of imaging detail as small as one-hundredth of a millimeter. A series of LED lights provides BUM with the ability to record high-speed exposures, as well as objects giving off light in dark marine conditions. The microscope is also capable of altering focus, in order to record 3D images of targets.
The diver controls the BUM using an interface, tethered to a central processing center.
Coral has been observed previously under microscopes, but only under laboratory conditions. This significantly impacts the results, as natural processes are interrupted.
For testing purposes, coral polyps in waters off the coast of Maui, as well as in the Red Sea, were examined using the unique imaging device. Details on these tiny creatures cannot be easily seen with the unaided eye; however, they join together to form mighty coral reefs. It is for this reason that studying coral polyps at such a small scale is crucial. These reefs form an integral part of the marine environment. Examining how the polyps behave on a microscopic scale could reveal secrets of the large-scale behavior of reef systems.
Turf battles ensued between neighboring coral of different species, as the organisms spit enzymes at one another through filaments reaching through the water.
They were also seen embracing one another when they belong to the same species. Biologists refer to this behavior as kissing.
War and peace takes place between coral under the sea, and now we can witness it for the first time.
Analysis of the microscopic photos taken of coral is profiled in the journal Nature Communications.